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'My Children Are Not Truly Mine': The Advice Every Parent Needs To Hear

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

The days are long but the years are short

“My children are not truly mine.”

I can’t get that line out of my head.

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow penned it last week in a column that will forever change the way I think about the what is the absolute right way to raise my children.

In “The Passion of Parenting,” Blow tells of his raising his three kids as a single dad for the past 13 years. One of them is already in college and the other two are almost out the door.

“Life gave them to me,” he writes. “I’m preparing myself, as best I can, to give them back to life.”

Nobody could have explained to me how much being a mom has deepened the meaning of my existence. While I have pockets (OK, buckets) of exhaustion, it is with mostly glee, joy and honor that I give so much of myself to my kids.

I need to catch my breath sometimes, though, when the wind of responsibility and the fact that these little lives look to me for absolutely everything knocks the air clean out of me. When they were tiny, the prospect of simply keeping them alive kept me up at night (the constant feedings, crying and diaper changes helped that, too). As they’re getting a bit older, navigating through the nuances of friendships, staying healthy, clean, kind, considerate, and happy present their share of challenges, and I know it’ll only get more complicated in the coming years. Add to that balancing their wants and needs with my jobs and relationships separate from them and I often feel like a vice is clamped around my head.

But if there’s a more challenging job than simply being a parent — or a better job — I’ve not heard of it. Now I understand it to the core, though: I get them for a precious short time because no job is forever. Parenting is a job and my kids are the beginning and end of my job description, and I need to make the most of it if I have any hope of walking away with a glowing review and any amount satisfaction. At the end of my days I want to know that I did the very best job I could, and that what I did meant something. My children’s place in this world will be my legacy.

Parenting seems to get easier at the same time it gets harder. But when I put it in through the lens that I’m doing it for them because I’ve been entrusted to care for and guide them so they can do out and do it on their own, is there a more awesome responsibility?

My children are not truly mine.

Blow tells of the pain in his chest as “the time with my children in my home draws to a close.”

My children are much younger than his, but one is now in kindergarten and the other will be starting preschool sooner rather than later, which gives me what  I imagine are similar chest pains. With more news about school shootings, bus accidents and mean girls, I cry a little inside every time my older daughter walks out the front door with the back pack brushing the back of her legs. Thinking about my 2-year-old joining her in a few years? Ugh.

“They are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life,” Blow writes. “They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.”

I will take the benefit of Blow’s hindsight — he as a soon-to-be empty-nester and me as the parent of small children — and I will use it to remind myself that my children are not mine, but they have been gifted to me to keep and care for until they can do it themselves. And I need to prepare all of us as best as I can for that eventual day when I am forced to give them back. I have a good amount of time in front of me to do it right, and I think knowing now how and why it works will help me towards that end.

My children are not truly mine.

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

More from Meredith on Babble:

Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the op-ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

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