We love to celebrate our children’s lives. As parents, we get to see their wonder and joy as they marvel at what is happening around them. As moms, the beautiful thing about early childhood is we are usually there for it all. Birthdays, first trips to Disney World, Easter egg hunts, seeing the beach for the first time, and holidays. We are blessed to sit in the front row. But kids get older, and how do we, as moms, handle the pain that sometimes comes with them growing up?
The Reality of Growing Up
But what happens as our children go from being wide-eyed little cherubs to understanding that the tooth fairy is us and that Santa does not in fact fly around with magic reindeer. We fret about what will happen when they find out the truth about those things. But do we ever stop and think about what it will be like for us? The front row uber-fans to these little people, who go from experiencing the magic with them, to watching it fade.
This reality hit us this year. Our 8 year old son lost a baby tooth and told me, “Mama, I know you are the tooth fairy.” This should not have been a big deal, because I think he caught me during one of my tooth fairy ninja moments. But it was. It was a very big deal. It came on the heels of him confessing that he knew the truth of Santa Claus and was not going to do the pictures with “the guy pretending to be him” anymore.
So, while holding my son’s latest lost tooth, the realization hit hard that this phase of childhood was gone. Even though Santa and the Tooth Fairy were never very important in our home, this moment meant his childhood is changing, and my life as a mom is changing too.
A Mama’s Heart Has To Grow Up Too
This mama’s heart was not ready, and it took every ounce of control not to yell “of course the Tooth Fairy is real and so is Santa, and the Easter Bunny. All of it is real!” I had an urge to grasp, super tight, to the moments when he was still awed by the simple magic of childhood.
But then I heard the voice. All mamas know this voice. It tells us to embrace growth, to step back, and let go. I hate that voice; she is brutal and unkind, and I wish she would go away. But she did not go away, and it was time to start letting go.
But knowing something and being ready for it are not the same thing. Our hearts break and simultaneously swell with pride with each new milestone and grasp for independence. It is what we sign up for and agree to when we enter this journey of motherhood.
We think about how we will encourage, guide, and tell them the truths about life. But along the way, we forget about our hearts and our need to hold on a little bit longer. How do we prepare and mend our hearts? The truth is we never can be prepared for it. One minute they are awed by the magic of everything around them and the next, they are not. We can watch for the signs, listen for the comments, but we will never be fully ready for it when it comes.
It Is Ok To Grieve Them Growing Up
As moms, there is only one way to mend our hearts when our kids’ logic and bluntness breaks it in two. We grieve the part of their childhood and our mama journey and then, we look forward. We look forward to the next phase of growing up and wonder what they will encounter there. Maybe the magic of Christmas morning and losing a tooth is gone, but the magic of life is not. Children grow up and with that growth comes new things to experience with them.
So, to all the moms trying desperately to hold onto a phase that has passed, it is ok. You are not alone. Feel what you feel because it is real, and accepting those feelings will only help you accept the change. Letting go of kids as they are growing up is all about change and even good change is hard. And this is good change, even if our hearts do not feel like it right now. It means they are growing up and maturing. And it means we are doing something right as moms. They let go of our hands and grab independence and we can be proud of that.
Give yourself time to silently cry in the shower. Look at the pictures of them sitting on Santa’s lap and holding Easter baskets bigger than them, and all those toothless pictures we have stored on phones. Do it all. But after, open those tear-stained eyes and see the next phase. Because I promise each new phase brings its own magic and joy.