Photo: Elham Raker

My firstborn just turned 14. A full-fledged teenager that now towers over me. Kids birthdays definitely make you nostalgic and think of their birth day. Especially the one that made you a mama! So I thought about how I had so many doubts and fears of being a new mom. Even as a pediatrician, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! But I managed, just like every other new mom does, and figured it out. And with every new age, there’s a new stage to master. A new nap schedule, feeding schedule, a new skill they just acquired, and as they get older learning to navigate life without you.

There is no secret sauce to parenting, there is not a magic ingredient. There is not just one thing that we need to do. If there were, it would be a heck of a lot easier. As babies we need to attend to their every need, they are fully dependent on us and it’s mostly about survival mode. But as they get older we need to teach good habits, safety, routines, healthy choices, and discipline. Then you hope as they become more independent they have learned the lessons you’ve taught (like washing hands!!!) and do the right thing when you’re not there. At each stage of their lives, they need something different from us. They could need more one day and not at all the next. But something always remains consistent, they need us.

As my kids have gotten older, I’ve really struggled with raising independent adults vs being there for them and helping them (helicopter parent much?) It’s definitely a fine balance. On one hand, there’s so much more we know that we can just do for them and it would make our lives easier. On the other hand, if they don’t learn adulting skills then will they be living with us forever? I definitely struggle between the two. In some ways, I feel like doing things for them is showing them love and if I don’t do those things I’m being mean (mom guilt alert!)…BUT…not really. We know that kids need to do things on their own, gain independence, and feel confident! That’s huge! But is there such a thing as too independent?

When COVID started, I decided to give up working outside the home. I really felt it was important to be home with my kids and I was so fortunate to be able to do that. And truly the kids did need me. In the beginning, I felt like it was one issue after another and I just needed to be there. Could they have figured it out without me…possibly…probably… but it was great for them to know that I was just there. I’m not telling you that you should quit your job and be home 24/7. That’s not financially feasible and frankly, that may not be the best option for everyone regardless of your financial outlook. You may absolutely love what you do and you are a better person for doing it! But it’s not about physically always being there, it’s just about being available. There are certainly days that I wish I were more present even though I’m physically there. It’s about making quality dates with your kids to be together, not quantity. It’s about following the rhythm of your kid’s schedules and being there for a carpool chat, late-night chat, or a special outing. There are so many skills we need to have as parents, but I really think one of the most important is just being there. Yes, we need to listen but they don’t always talk. Sometimes what’s not said is just as important as what is said.

Our kids need their independence, no doubt. But as they get older we need to be available as consultants. Only sharing our opinions when asked. And maybe guiding them when we know the path taken is not where they want to go. It’s a fine balance, a delicate dance, and definitely not easy to master. Ultimately, I want my kids to turn into adults I want to hang out with. That’s the parenting advice I consistently keep in the back of my head!

feature image via Bethany Beck on Unsplash