Erin Britt essays

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And just like that, I’m no longer a parent of little kids.

How did that happen? It was amazingly fast.

Our kids are big now. And they’re getting bigger, if our orthodontist is to be believed. He took an x-ray of our son’s hand and said that he has 70% of his growing yet to do.

This is ducking-through-doorways big.

The size I can take. I can take their growing senses of humor and intelligence, their maturing tastes in movies and music. I’m finally used to them staying up until MY bedtime.

But being a parent of big kids is hard.

There are new truths that I didn’t anticipate and proclamations of you don’t know me that simultaneously wound me and cause me to stifle a smile.

I don’t know you? What DON’T I know?

Turns out, it’s a lot. I don't know how they feel about war, or death, or that their best friend has the mouth of a truck driver. If they have that mouth. If they say “My mom is clueless” or “She’ll never find out” or “I’m not telling her.” If I’m finally, finally, dumber than everyone else. It’s hard to give up knowing.

It’s hard to put old habits away, to say no to things they ask of me not because they can't do it themselves, but because they’re feeling lazy or rebellious. Room cleaning used to be a formality; after they cleaned I’d swoop in discreetly and re-order things, discarding stained clothing and outgrown shoes. Now I close doors against the mess, reminding them to sort through their piles of stuff. They roll their eyes. We know, mom.

Meals, social activities, decisions to stay home or join me on errands—these are, for the most part, their choices now. I no longer need to micromanage them. I try to. They rebuke me. We’ve got it, mom.

Our daughter—a tween—still needs me to do things. She still wants to tell me things, still wants to have my hands at her arms’ length. Sometimes I sense that I’m her crutch.  I pull away, not wanting to create a dependency that is spawned by doubt in her abilities. The perfect storm of femaleness and adolescence is knocking. We dance together, pushing and pulling. It’s uncertain which one of us will lead today.

I reminisce about the past, when feeding schedules and the fear of a ringing phone waking napping toddlers ruled my consciousness. When I’d collapse at eight o’clock after a day of taking care of small people’s needs. I wonder when 8 pm no longer became the end of the day. Sometimes the day ends after I go to bed.

It’s hard to not see myself as caretaker, hero, and boo-boo kisser. I say eat your vegetables and no more cookies but a week ago there were Hershey bars in the pantry and now they’re gone.

I didn’t even get any.

Where is my place in this system? I didn’t authorize the shift in my role. I’m not ready for these changes. I haven’t organized everything yet. I never got comfortable, never had the opportunity to say I got this. I’m expected to be more flexible, more go with the flow.

Our kids are aging. Changing. They are forcing me into it, too.

Our interweavement is unraveling. I keep my eye on their escaping threads while keeping a handle on my own. I don’t want them to go on without knowing my own ends.

This transition is hard. The worst is although I saw it coming, I didn’t know what it would look like.

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Erin Britt

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