The baby of our family just turned 19 today. It is pretty amazing when your last baby has navigated that many years and is starting to forge a life for themselves. Not a baby anymore.
It is a good feeling, made especially better by learning that even when your kids are doing hard things – as they all must – it’s helping them grow.
I am a great one for trying to get in-between the hard things and the kids, and this is a lesson I am only just starting to come to grips with, as the very last baby grows up. It took me three go’s!
That said, your babies are always your babies, aren’t they?
And yet … there’s a bit of a sneaky switcheroo as they sort of tag you on the road to growing up and at times, speed past you in the weirdest relay race ever.
Possibly that doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t been there – or maybe it does, I am not sure – but the thing is when your kids grow up there are some super surreal moments where you find yourself listening extra closely and rethinking your own stance on lots of things.
When your kids are little you often just prattle away, numbed a little by exhaustion. And they prattle away too. They are sort of primed to listen to your ideas and explanations and take them as gospel … even if they also like to tell you that no thank you, they would not like to put their socks on nor stop spooning peanut butter from jar to mouth.
When they are older, guess what? They have formed their own ideas and theories, fuelled by youthful passion and lots of brand new information they’ve picked up in their travels.
You get to listen to them and often realise your own theories need more fleshing out, or are not what you really and truly meant, or could do with revising.
It’s actually blinking brilliant.
People don’t really talk about this part of parenting very much. It’s a sort of unexpected prize you get at the tail end. Despite (v important) chatter of patriarchs and matriarchs, it’s the KIDS that end up doing the arch-ing, in my life at least.
That’s not to say that I expect them to lead the charge when it comes to efforts and decisions and big conversations , but more that this part of my life is full of brilliant inspiration and information … from them. And that has been an unexpected delight.
It’s kind of like you raise your kids and you get them to adulthood – ready to set free into the world – and that in itself is as good as the nicest bowl of ice cream you ever could eat (or frozen coconut yogurt, if you are vegan, because everyone’s needs count.) You all made it!
Then, they wander into adulthood and start teaching you things and helping you grow a bit more. And that bowl of ice-cream/fro-co-yo gets some bonus sprinkles and cherries and other favourite things lobbed on the top. They’re making YOU!
Just when you thought you’d hit the parenting jackpot, things get even better and … you realise you don’t know what you’re talking about re some things, and that it’s time to shake up your brain and learn/consider some more stuff!
They sort of wander back into your life, in a shape-shifted form, ready to help you be better.
Honestly? It’s a huge relief! Not only because you – and by you I mean me, in this case – get a sort of second wind, but you’re old enough to realise that it’s good to not have things all sewn up because … curiosity is excellent AND you sort of get to know your kids all over again – as grown-ups.
Anyway. Look. I am sure this is a load of ramble to lots of people, but it’s exactly how I am feeling right now as a now-solo mum of a 30-year-old, a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old human.
I helped make some people who are now more then ever helping me learn more about people (and myself!) They are helping me grow.
What an ace surprise.
Photo: Ari and me. 2000.