Relish these Present Days

Fia is 11 and, being the youngest of my four, is the only one still in the primary school in our village. She usually walks home from school by herself now because she’s old enough, in my opinion, and it’s not that far, but occassionally I’ll still walk up to meet her at the school gate.

Last week I did that and when she spotted me from a distance, she ran up to greet me. It is such a sweet moment of delight – that moment when you know the other person is thrilled to see you and so runs because they can’t wait to be with you. I remember the last time Nate did that too, I even remember thinking: ‘I need to remember this moment as this might be the last time’. That was the last time, now he’s fifteen it just wouldn’t be cool to run to his mum anymore.

I have to confess that there are some days when I collect my older girls from their secondary school that they will at least greet me with a smile! But how quickly that smile sours when they start to recount their day. The bitter memories of interactions with teachers who are ‘soooo annoying’ or friends who ‘aren’t talking to me anymore’ (for five minutes to maybe a day or two), or the thoughts of hours of homework and the hunger that swoops in with an eyewatering speed comparable to the sudden devastation equal only to a nuclear explosion.

Teenagers – putting the capital A in hangry the world over!

However, no matter how much they may smile when they see me, there’s not a chance either of them would run up to me for a hug anymore and especially not in a public place like the school carpark!

No, my kids are changing as they are growing up and one of those changes means they are losing their childish eagerness to see their mum.

They are losing plenty of their childish ways apart from the simple joy that children express physically through running or leaping into their mother’s arms. They don’t ask me to read them bedtime stories anymore, they don’t need me to pick out clothes or help them dress. They preferably want me to take a 50m berth of a bathroom door, if that were possible.

No more bobbing ducks in the bath bubbles together.

No more needing me to slice them some toast soldiers.

No more counting piggies on their toes.

No more tickling chubby tummies.

And the startling realisation is, I am ok with it.

I am ok that that chapter of my parenting journey is closing and we are moving on. I can look back and remember those happy cuddles and know that the challenges of those parenting years have also passed. We seemed to be in a contant haze of sleepless nights that felt as if each night lasted lasted at least three weeks long, early mornings where 6am felt like a lie-in, weeks when your body felt like it was permanently raw and bleeding due to childbirth and breastfeeding, days of being knee-deep in babypoo and vomit. Beautiful.

I was told as an encouragement in the early dismal months of my fist baby that ‘this too shall pass’, and it has! It has passed from early years parenting to teenage parenting!! You may say ‘well, out of the frying pan and into the fire then!’, but I have to admit I that what I really feel is an overwhelming sense of relief.

Sure, this next stage is filled with it’s own set of unique challenges. I am still learning as a mum because this is new territory for me every single day. My sweet little cherubs (who, I mustn’t forget, also once were raving toddlers) are now grumpy young adults. They can be opinionated and churlish, disrespectful to me and unkind to their siblings. They slam doors, run away, pierce their own bodies.

Sure, parenting this age can be simply terrifying as they are taking greater risks. Eva has just learnt to drive and I’ve been having exhillarating daily doses of near-death experiences. When they go out I don’t always know who they are hanging out with, where they are, or what they are doing. Their need for independence has them pushing the boundaries of what we are comfortable with.

On the other hand, what we have left behind as parents in various ways, I now have in so many others.

Now, with our ‘nearly-adults’, we can share jokes and journeys, we enjoy the same films and books. We pursue similar interests and appreciate common delights. We have morning lie-ins. (Sleep – at last!) I have a ready-made group of fun people to play games with that I also enjoy playing, capable children who want to cook the dinner and do it well, offers to being me coffee in bed, to run me a bath. And not just for me but for other people too. I think this is one of the best aspects of all – I see all the times I’ve been teaching my children to be kind and loving now pouring out in acts of kindness and compassion towards other people.

I can stand back a bit now and enjoy who they are becoming.

I don’t regret that we have to move on in the parenting journey, I am excited about each new stage and watching how my young people unfurl from the little buds we’ve been tending so carefully.

Fia has just over a year of primary school left, and will be moving into the teenager zone, Eva has just over a year of secondary school left and may be leaving the home. What happens after that is an uncertainty.

All this is the right and natural process of growing up and I am grateful for every new day that I still have the opportunity to be a part of that process in each of their lives, even if those days are still not perfect and often filled with on-going tantrums, typical teen angst and my own frustrations.

Sure I miss some of the cuteness of early childhood, but I am equally eagerly anticipating what’s to come. However, just as much as we can’t keep the past in the present, we can’t pull the future into today. I have to acknowledge that we have to let go of the days that have past and also, there is no knowing what will happen next. In fact, some of the scariest parenting days may yet be ahead of us.

Because of that, because we have no control over what has happened when it’s already done, or what will happen in days to come, I am endeavouring to do my best to relish these present days for as long as I have them. I don’t always get that right, I battle fear and I have to constantly remind myself to not worry about the if only’s and the what if’s.

However, what I do have is now – these moments of daily life – what I do with them is up to me.

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