Admit it, we all have those nights when we count down to bedtime just waiting for those eyes to close so that we can have a few moments to sit and relax. Some nights the countdown is “one more hour!” Other nights the countdown starts earlier, “is it 8:00 yet?” These thoughts are usually followed by a level of guilt for even having the thought, “I love my children and I should love spending every minute I can with them.” And so the cycle goes.
Then an interesting thing starts to happen. The kids start to become more social. Their friends invite them over for the afternoon or to spend the night. All of a sudden the house is a little quieter. Without your child around to ask you endless questions, you may even have the thought, “what should I do now?” (Shocking I know but it has happened on rare occasions.)
Last night I dropped my almost eleven year old off at a church event exclusively for 5th and 6th graders. The promoters of the event had been at the local schools and did a great job in making this the “must do” social event. So there I was, on a Friday evening, watching my super excited daughter run off with her friend to find the others and have a great night. I had mixed emotions. I was excited for her remembering how much fun it is at that age to spend time with your friends and the rush of independence that comes with it. I also felt a little uncertain, what was I doing dropping her off? Shouldn’t I stay to keep an eye out like always? I knew the answer was no. They were in a safe environment and are old enough to know how to behave on their own for a couple hours. Then came the twinge of sadness. She’s growing up. She’s going to start spending more time outside of our house away from us. It’s bittersweet.
In his book about “lighthouse parenting”, Kenneth Ginsburg writes:
You are better prepared than you think. You have been practicing the balancing act between safety and allowing healthy, creative development from the moment your infant began creeping on the floor. You know the only way children learn is to test and manipulate their environment…..You were a lighthouse even then – the stable, solid presence that allowed her to measure her own security. You kept an eye on the waves to make sure they were safe to venture into.”
I have a feeling I’m going to be coming back to that quote again and again. Whether we realize it or not, we have been preparing them for these moments of independence from the very start. It just feels different now as they start to move a little farther away from the shore. Later that night I picked up her and a friend (oh by the way our other friend needs a ride home too). Can we stop and get some food, we are starving. Followed by who was there and who said what and can you believe that? And so it begins, just a small glimpse of what the next few years are going to bring. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to start those countdowns……
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.