Family Friday: Growing Up and Gaining Independence – The Bittersweet Happiness of a New Back to School Milestone
It seems every time I turn around my daughter has reached another milestone – one day taking her very first steps and learning how to talk, and in what seems like a heartbeat, she’s getting herself out of bed, going through her morning routine, and getting ready for school all by herself.
Now that it’s back to school time, we’ve hit another milestone. This time it’s a big one: all-day school. That means sitting at tiny desks, outdoor recess with the big kids, eating lunch in the school lunchroom. That means more independence.
For me, it’s a bittersweet milestone. On the one hand, I’m so enormously proud of my plucky little girl for puffing out her chest, and saying, “I can do it. I can be brave!” And on the other, I am already missing the nervous toddler who shyly clung to my legs whenever we encountered a new situation.
It’s a reminder that growing up means watching your children step away from the safety of the nest to test their independence. It means your role as everything has now been relegated to ‘backup’ in case of boo-boos that need a kiss or an unexpected playground crisis.
It means that instead of being the nurturing caregiver who attends to every single need, my role is now as life guide and translator to help her understand and interpret her ever-changing world and how she fits into her new social circles.
It means that instead of being her everything, I am emergency backup for those days when independence gets too scary and she needs to run back to mommy for a hug. But mostly, I am the rarely used safety system that gives her the courage to venture out, knowing that she’s never far from mommy.
It means that everything is as it should be.