A few years after my husband and I were married, he brought up the topic of starting a family. Five years older than me, his biological clock was running a little faster than mine. He was ready for children. I, on the other hand, wavered with the idea.
Similar to how I first thought about marriage, becoming a mom was a little frightening. My husband, the ever patient man, who had to propose three times to me before I agreed to marriage, again had to wait for me to warm up to the idea of starting a family. But, it did not take me quite as long to agree on starting a family as it did to marriage.
Over the course of the next 12 years, we had three sons. With four years in-between each one, I had enough time to become acquainted with how to parent each of my little men as an individual before the next one came along and joined the family. Although they were all boys, they each had their own unique personalities.
The logistics of parenting young children was a relatively easy concept for me to catch onto. First of all, they all started out as being quite dependent upon me and I was their main source of food, comfort, and consolation. I bathed them, changed their diapers, played patty-cake, sang nursery rhymes, rocked them to sleep and put them to bed.
Then the older they grew, the more they let me know what they liked and didn’t like; the boxed macaroni and cheese instead of homemade. The yellow shorts instead of the red ones and a kick ball instead of soccer ball. They’d negotiate with me about bed time, movies they could watch and friends they wanted to play with. Making these small choices on their own, I reasoned, would help them when they needed to make bigger ones later on.
The early teen years brought more independence and less dependence. They didn’t need my advice about what to wear. When they were hungry they knew how to make the boxed macaroni and cheese. They made their own money with odd jobs and bought the “toys” they wanted.
With the later teenage years they became nearly independent young men. Their choices now came with natural consequences enforced by someone other than me. Skipping school equaled detention, failing grades meant repeating a class and a speeding ticket was terribly expensive.
By the time each son had reached eighteen, they’d left home to go onto college, travel or work. Although I wanted to confer with them about their choices, exchange ideas about their options, and convey my opinion, they were no longer in need of Mom to mother them.
Why bother resigning the parenting role? It has taken me a while to become comfortable with the fact that my grown sons no longer need me to parent them. But, what I have discovered is that I can be their advocate. No matter how old they get, my sons will always need to know that I am for them and not against them.