kids

"Please stop telling parents to 'enjoy your kids while they're young.'"

Here’s something no one tells you about parenting: it’s full of last times.

The last time you put on their seatbelt, draw them a shower, wipe their butt – you know, all those intimate services you do from the minute they’re born.

One day, they just don’t need you anymore, and without realising it, you’ve done that thing for the last time. Ever. That part of your parenting job is done.

Woo hoo – but also, boo hoo, right?

It sounds so sad, but of course, we’re the lucky ones; the parents who get to watch our kids grow up to be functioning adults who don’t need us anymore. There are too many parents who don’t get that privilege.

The thing is, there’s not a parent out there who doesn’t recognise that. So, there’s no need for anyone to tell us to ‘enjoy the kids while they’re young’ – because we’re already doing it.

(Except for when they’re being little b*ggers of course – and that’s okay. No need to shame us for that, either.)

But, since, so far, I do have that privilege, this is also what I’m doing: I’m enjoying my child in the present, and not worrying about what I have ‘lost’ from his younger years.

I’m thinking about how far we’ve come.

Today, at 12-years-and-six-days old, my son took himself off to school on his bike for the first time. I watched him zoom down the hill, and thought, brilliant, he needs to learn independence.

Go, little man. (Although he is now taller than me.)

I stood in front of the house, heart bursting with pride, even tearing up a bit as I watched him literally and metaphorically speed away from me (because yes, I’m a cry baby), I thought:

Good. He’s ready. This is the way things should be.

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I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Does it mean I don’t love my son? Does that make me a terrible mother?

No, it just makes me realistic. I’m enjoying the parenting win in that moment.

It’s the circle of life.

Yes, I’m a little sentimental about all the times we picked up hot chocolates on the way to school and talked about the upcoming day. But also, let’s face it – a lot of those mornings were hard. There were tears and tantrum, and I’m not just talking about from me.

Now, sort of suddenly, it seems that things have evolved, as they’re meant to. And that is a good – nay brilliant – thing.

My kid called me at 8:15am to tell me he’d arrived at school safely. So that means our practices runs together, the bike safety I’ve taught him – well, they’ve paid off.

So I’m not going to look at this as a loss, but as the next step to embrace as a parent.

That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the pleasure (mostly) of having done it for years until now. That doesn’t mean I’m thinking, great, ‘one less job for me’ (although I sort of am).

I’m thinking, good on me. Bravo, Nama.

It’s not as though I could be more obsessed with my son. Like almost every parent I know, this kid is the best thing that’s happened to me, and the best thing I’ve ever done.

Last week, on his twelfth birthday, I snuggled into bed with him to kiss him good night. He gave me ten seconds, then rolled over to face the other way.

So I asked him, “Who am I gonna hug like this when you’re all grown up? When you’re a big man and it would be weird to get into your bed?”

His sleepy answer?

“You’ll need to get a dog, Mum.”

And that’s what I’ve learnt is one of the best things about parenting that no one really tells you about; if you’re lucky, they grow up to be your cheeky equals.

Of course, we will miss their younger selves; but from what I can tell, the best is still yet to come.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). Now a Mamamia Contributor and freelance writer, Nama uses her past experience as a lawyer to discuss everything from from politics, to parenting. Instagram: @namawinston Facebook: @NamaWinston.

How do you feel about being told to enjoy every moment because your kids will grow up quickly? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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