As the month of May zooms by, like most moms out there, I am grappling with end-of-the-year school parties and last minute summer plans. But in the midst of all this chaos, I try to pause for a minute and take stock of how my boys have grown since last August.
My 9-year-old can now proficiently tie his own shoelaces and when the bout of independence strikes him. My 4-year-old can occasionally dress himself. These little strides toward self-sufficiency are always heavily applauded and celebrated because I also inch away from the exhaustive, soul-sucking job of doing every. single. thing. for the little creatures I bore into this world.
But this end-of-the-school-year poignant nostalgia always hits me hard as I watch how lightning fast my kids are doing the exact thing that I need them to do: grow into self-regulating young men who will one day function without my help. It’s an absurd contradiction to grasp when the core of my identity has shifted over the years and been slowly engineered to help my children above all else.
This morning, I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s Facebook post about her daughter’s graduation. It perfectly articulated the paradox of parenthood. Brown is a renowned professor at the University of Houston and has written three best sellers about the topics of relationships, vulnerability, shame and courage. Brown posted a childhood photo of her daughter and mulled over the conflicting emotions she felt watching her child graduate from high school.
Brown eloquently wrote:
“There’s a combination of joy and grief that can take your breath away. The sum of those two parts wells up inside you and holds your breath hostage until you let go of the notion that you can control the paradox and choose between joy and grief. Your breath returns only when you submit to the reality that you are caught in the grips of both delight and sorrow. Both are strong. Both are true.”
She perfectly defined the essence of parenthood. Clearly, it struck a chord with readers, because just 24 hours after posting, it had already been shared nearly 7K times. There is a brutality with the speed at which your children grow and I’m not certain anything really prepares us parents for this journey. Even Brown acknowledges the balancing act in her post saying, “Now the toughest paradox of love – letting go and holding on.”
While reading Brown’s post, I tried to comfort myself by reasoning that my son is only 9 years old and his high school graduation is actually really far away, but wait … Are we really, truly halfway there? Ugh.
So more realizations and nostalgic lamenting follows, until I take a deep breath, exhaling the pain and joy I have no compass for or control over. And then reminded myself that this privilege I’ve been given, however fleeting, is still a privilege nevertheless.