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Love and Hate

The ups, downs and overall delights of parenthood
Mar 30, 2011
10:19 AM

I Love (and Hate) My Girls' Growing Independence

My girls used to depend on me for everything, which was exhausting and drove me crazy. Now they don't need me so much. Hey – I want to go back to the good old days!

I Love (and Hate) My Girls' Growing Independence

My husband recently cleaned out the very depths of his van and found a little surprise – a Ziploc bag bursting pink and white. It was a mom emergency kit that I must have left there, 'just in case.' I took a trip to the past, unzipping the bag to see what I packed at least four years ago.

The bag contained a little pink princess pull-up diaper, some dried-out baby wipes, napkins, tissues and a sealed package with a spork and napkin. I was all set for any number of events, apparently.

And that's how it was. Every moment of my girls' day, back then, was decided by me. And whenever something went wrong, it was up to me to fix it, wipe it up, clean it up, change it or make it go away. It was a pain, I must say.

But which is worse? Today they barely seem to need me at all!

I guess I started to notice it last year. The girls weren't thrilled to see me at the end of the day. They didn't always need my help with homework or getting snacks. They could pick out their own clothes, thank you very much. And heaven forbid I might walk in on one of them changing their clothes! Those little forms I had taken care of from toenail to hair follicle suddenly belonged only to them. If I walked into the bathroom by mistake? "Moooo-oooom!" they howled, desperately covering themselves.

Hrumpf. They didn't need me anymore.

At first that was kinda cool. Wow! I don't have to carry them anymore. Wow! They know what they want for snacks at school every day. Wow! They can read all by themselves. How wonderful!

After that, I got busier. I started doing more volunteer work and taking more writing jobs. If they didn't want me, I was sure someone else would. I didn't do what some of my mad mother-sisters do and fulfill a burning desire to have another baby! Not me. I wasn't THAT sad. I didn't need to clean up any more poop in MY lifetime. No, sir.

I got a dog!

A year later, my girls, at 7 and 9, are getting even more frighteningly independent! Patti is turning 10 soon, for goodness sake. The tween style-consciousness and eye-rolling has commenced. But when this little girl who couldn't go to her classroom alone just two years ago runs out the door in the morning, out toward school and the big cruel world, without even thinking to look back and say goodbye, let alone get a reassuring hug and kiss … well, I do feel a little pang of obsolescence.

No doubt there are many more of these moments to come. And that's wonderful! I want my girls to gain confidence and to flourish. And of course, my girls do still need me.

Today I was out lunching with my friends, enjoying my freedom, and missed a call to my cell phone. I didn't hear till a half hour later that Patti was in her school clinic with a temperature of 102!

All of the guilt and weight of having a sick child rushed back at me as I rushed to the school.

At home, I dug out the old thermometer and remembered all those many fevers before that had made my girls feel needy and vulnerable and younger than their years.

I talked Patti into getting under the covers and letting me take over. And as her head sunk into the pillow and her eyes closed heavily, she seemed content, for a change, to let me practice a little serious mothering on her.

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