Childhood Transitions:: The Invisible, Indelible Line

Childhood Transitions:: The Invisible, Indelible LineIf your son is over the age of thirteen, do you remember exactly the last time that he reached out for your hand? I do. The last time my now thirty year old son reached out to hold my hand, he was ten years old.  I picked him up from school and took him to the mall to find a new pair of shoes. It was a Thursday afternoon in the fall and as we were walking into the mall, he was absent mindedly telling me about his day and suddenly reached up to take my hand, while laughing along to the story.  Just then, as if someone held up a sign that said, Yo, dude! You’re ten! What are you doing?! he just as suddenly took his hand away. I didn’t say anything but, I definitely noticed and I never forgot.  

All parents lament the customary firsts and lasts that come with raising children. First and last baby tooth. First and last day of elementary school. First date, last day of high school, first day of college.  You get the picture – all of the big moments. 

Moms of littles pay close attention here because there are so many seemingly small moments that go unnoticed, but mark the silent transition from child to young adult. Much more subtle, but no less significant.  Like the last time a young son reaches out to hold his mother’s hand in public.  Or, when a daughter who spent the ages of three to eight clothed in glitter and tulle, suddenly finds it all a bit too much

It took me a while to realize that these sudden shifts are just as much about autonomy as they are about maturity. I mean, obviously a twelve year old girl is going to dress differently than her five year old self, but I have to admit that some of it makes me sad. I wanted to hang on to the pink tulle and tiaras a bit longer; or maybe it was the fantasy and innocence that I was hoping would linger.  

Bridging the Gap

Childhood Transitions:: The Invisible, Indelible LineMy youngest daughter {age thirteen} recently decided that she wants to close the gap between her two front teeth. It would be totally accurate to say that I’m devastated.  It might also be fair to say that I’m a bit dramatic, but just a bit. Not only is her gap completely adorable, but it’s as much a part of her as her freckles or curly, coily hair. I mean, in my eyes, she’s perfect. She doesn’t agree.

Me: What do you mean??? Why would you get braces? Your gap is beautiful, it’s youuuuu.

Her: I don’t like it.

Me: …but I do!

Her: …but they’re my teeth and {laughing} why are you so extra?

Me: Lauren Hutton had an entire career as a super model with a gap between her teeth! People paid her for it!

Her: Who is Lauren Hutton???

Me: Nevermind.

I lost – my husband sided with her and she now has braces. I still have some lingering bitterness {I’m only slightly kidding}, but it is true that she isn’t a little girl any more.  Somewhere in the past ten years, she crossed that invisible, indelible line into the next phase of discovering who she is and who she wants to become. I guess that includes closing the gap between her teeth. 

Control Issues

As I think about it, maybe one of the biggest reasons for much of my sadness is recognizing an increasing loss of control.  Let’s face it, the older our kids get, the less they need us in a real and tangible way.  Sure, they still rely on us to mother them and yes, we still act as cook, chauffer, tutor and maid, but there is a recognition that they are capable of doing more for themselves.  We are no longer the only influence in their lives and there are more factors that affect their decision making. Not only is it frightening and uncomfortable for us as parents, but it is for our kids, as well. As a mom of adult children I can tell you that there have been many moments {and not all of them good} when I have stood looking and listening to my kids and thought, who are you?

So, the relationships shift and things start to look and feel a little different.  Remember when you were a teenager roaming the mall with your friends as your mom lingered behind?  Now, sis, that mom is you! No longer are we shopping at Justice. No, ma’am. They traded Justice for Forever 21 and I was wondering if there was a store called Not Yet 21?

That little boy of yours who used to seemingly be adverse to showering, suddenly showers regularly, might even use lotion and values all five of the hairs on his upper lip. 

I’m not ready and I keep wondering when did we get to this part of the journey. Also, to be honest, I’m scared.  Parenting is so counterintuitive because, if we do our jobs right, we create people who can fly away from us. Fully functioning adults who can take care of themselves and, eventually, a family of their own. However, by that time, we’ve already fallen so madly in love with them. 

Ah, but the love is there, along with mutual respect and trust.  Update on my now grown son – as an adult, he has held my hand and been there when I need him most.  Through the loss of each of my parents {his grandparents} and life’s general ups and downs, he has again reached out and taken my hand. So, you see, all is not lost.  Yes, they grow and change and there are all of these precious, almost silent moments along the way. Our job is to take it all in and maneuver it all with grace and our sanity intact {I have not yet mastered the grace and sanity part}. 

Mommas, hold tight, watch and listen. These moments, childhood transitions, come without fanfare or notice. A sudden interest in the environment or politics; or shift in their taste in music. Again, pay attention.  You are witnessing a transition years in the making – ready… set… launch.  


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here