Now I am mother of an adult! Actually, her birthday was 3 weeks ago but I think I’m still reeling from the shock. Last night I was overcome by a sudden urge to call up my friends who already have grownup children to ask them how they transitioned from being a mum of a child to a mum of another adult overnight. It’s not like either of us has changed overnight, only her status has. I’m still trying to figure this all out.
Some aspects of change in parenting are gradual and others are sudden, we have anticipated and gradually built up to this point for 18 years but it feels to me as if in the space of one day things have changed and that’s what has thrown me.
Now suddenly there are 3 adults in the house.
Now suddenly I can’t say “you can’t, because I said so!”
Now she has so much more freedom than she ever had and I can’t simply say “no” just because I think that particular thing she would like to do is a bad idea. I can inform her of her choices and options, I can express when I don’t agree, but I can no longer forbid her from doing certain things or going to certain places if I’m concerned for her well being.
I now have to take the biggest leap of trust in my parenting journey to date – that all I have done up until now will be enough.
In the process of handing her more responsibility I am entrusting more to her and trusting her with more.
I have to trust that my good enough parenting has been good enough.
The problem is we can always do more as parents can’t we? Good enough is just that – not perfect. We could always do with more patience with playing Barbies, more time to listen to the rambling stories, more money to pay for extra lessons, more wisdom in knowing which choices are best for them, more discipline or more leeway (self and theirs), more energy for another game of football, more enthusiasm for bedtime stories, more foresight to prevent the avoidable accidents.
Now the sleepless nights we had with her as a baby will be replaced by sleepless nights wondering whether she actually is where she says she is in that text and wondering whether that person who collects them will drive safely, that they won’t be drinking before they drive.
The letting go feels strange, and uncomfortable.
If I’m honest, it feels very scary too at times because I know what dangers lie out there and I want to hold on to the little girl I used to have for a bit longer. I don’t want her to make all the mistakes I made or grieve all the hurts I’ve grieved.
But I have to, I can’t stop her from growing up, I can’t keep her here for ever and I can’t hold back time.
I have to allow her to have her own secrets, her own life that doesn’t include me and that can hurt sometimes.
The growing up isn’t all bad, there are some lovely aspects to suddenly having an adult ‘child’. We have another driver in the house, I’m enjoying watching her mature and become more responsible and there’s an undeniable sense of relief that some of my parenting responsibilities have eased slightly.
However, she may be an adult on paper, but she still lives at home as she has one more year of school so she’s not independent by any means. She still needs to consider that she’s part of our household and it’s this balance that is hard to strike. What are acceptable expectations for another adult under the same roof? Are these expectations the same for adults that are also your children? Would you tell another adult, for example, to go and clean their bedroom?
Maybe some (bossy) people would!
The thing is, she’s still my daughter, and in most ways our relationship hasn’t changed, it’s just shifted slightly.
I reckon the way we communicate has to change slightly too and this new language is what I am trying to learn. I probably need to be patient with myself, and her, because learning a new language takes time and practice and there will be plenty of opportunities for miscommunication.
She told me a couple of days ago that she actually enjoyed tidying her room because she wasn’t told to do it, she wanted to do it!
I wasn’t sure what to do with that statement at the time. Sigh with relief? Laugh? Cast my eyes upwards in a silent prayer of thanks? Wonder why it took so long? Now I can see it’s possible that many of the things we have been laying down in her life have created a foundation and are bearing fruit. And I’m not just talking about the practical things like tidy bedrooms.
I realise that her childhood may be over but our relationship is a continual journey of discovery and delight. Although we are grown-up, we never stop growing and changing, even though, paradoxically, underneath we are still the same people. She will always be my first born, the one who made me a Mum, and I will always be her Mum.
However, there are some things in life she will have to deal with, that I won’t be able to shield her from anymore and for those things I have to lean in to grace and into trust in order to let her go. Because really, she wasn’t all mine to begin with.