Her things were packed in a U-Haul and we were driving her 500 miles away to begin life on her own. My oldest daughter was 19 and ready to fly. We had prepared her for this day, but I was the one struggling. She’s not a baby anymore. From the day our kids are born, they are on a journey toward independence. Each step for them feels like a step away from us and it hurts.
That day was 10 years ago. I wish I had known then what I know now. It would have given me comfort and reassurance that she wasn’t moving as far away from my heart as it felt. Whether your baby is phasing out of a car seat, going to sleepaway camp for the first time, or packing up for college, you don’t have to be sad. Your relationship changes with every step, but it can actually get better. Just remember these 4 things when your baby’s not a baby anymore.
1. They will still need you.
“Mom. How do I make your chili?”
“The DMV said they need proof of address. What is that?”
“My baby has a rash. What should I put on it?”
The requests for advice have never stopped. Some of the advice she takes and some she doesn’t. Mostly, she wants my approval and reassurance, so I try to infuse most conversations with words that remind her that I believe in her. Knowing that gives her confidence.
2. Your relationship will deepen.
As our children mature, their emotions mature and stabilize. They have a greater capacity to relate to you and they understand themselves better. As they start to make more responsible decisions for themselves, both of you can be more open because your main role is no longer disciplinarian. As sad as it is when your baby’s not a baby anymore, it’s a chance to grow in mutual respect, shared interests, and heartfelt conversations.
3. They will remember what you’ve taught them.
Your influence on your kids runs deep. They’ve adopted your core values even when it seems they have resisted them. They may stumble a little the first couple of years as they try out their new independence, but they will land on the foundation you’ve helped them create. I’ve watched my daughter become a wonderful mother to her own children. I see my influence in the way she relates to them. I’ve also seen our family values lived out in her job and in her marriage.
4. They will grow from their mistakes.
Mistakes might leave bumps and bruises, but they can be some of the best teachers. Some of our greatest growth follows our own blunders, so don’t be afraid to stand back and let your kids fail. You will see them rise up using the tools you’ve given them. A master craftsman gains his skill in practice. Our children need to practice what we’ve taught them through use. They will grow and it will astound you. In many ways, they will surpass you.
Change is hard and letting go isn’t easy, but the best years with your kids are in front of you. What part of your kids growing up are you looking forward to most?