Parenting: What (Little) I’ve Learned

By Jack Canfora look

In my younger and (seemingly) more vulnerable years as a parent, I had assumed that taking care of a child through their infancy and youth would be the most demanding part of parenting. I certainly expected some bumps in adolescence and in between, but I felt confident there would reach a point at which I could sit back and, having tried to do my best (with varying degrees of success), I could feel less worried, less vigilant and beholden.

Unsurprisingly, I was an idiot.

The challenges merely shift. Today my daughter left for Berlin to study for the semester. Though I’m sure she’ll face challenges, it will ultimately be among the more defining and transformative periods of her life. It also solidifies, for me, that she is essentially and irrevocably an adult.

All of this is good; it is, in fact, wonderful. It’s a true blessing. If I were so inclined and had the emotional and physical flexibility, I might even be tempted to give myself (and her mother, of course), a pat on the back. It means we’ve done our job; she is now an independent, adventurous, and forward-thinking adult.

But here’s the big surprise: there will one day reach a point when you realize you need your children more than they need you.

That’s healthy, natural, and heart-shreddingly sad.

What I wish for my children, and what I’m confident will happen, is that they will continue to grow away from us and towards themselves – always feeling close to us and loving us, I hope – but experiencing life fully as and for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I still hope to a live a fulfilling life with friends and purpose.

But what I’m confident will happen, too, is that I will forever feel a little cavity in my soul that won’t ever be filled. In fact, I wouldn’t want it to.

It’s a piercing, unique ache that simultaneously conveys deep pride, unassailable love, and searing sorrow.

Ironically, I bet the Germans have a word for it. Hopefully, my daughter will teach me it when she returns.

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27 thoughts on “Parenting: What (Little) I’ve Learned

  1. For me childhood was a breeze. Sweetness and light and being the giver of good things and protector of their happiness. It is when they turned 13 that they became alien creatures and hostile to life as I knew it.

    Grandchildren will be my vengeance on my daughter. I doubt my son will ever bother with such trifles.

  2. Beautifully written! I’m still in the early years of parenting but have enough friends who have faced it to have heard that the “empty” part of the nest is real. Congratulations!! And best wishes – to you all!

  3. It’s a never-ending challenge and a bittersweet experience. Letting go after so many years evokes plenty of emotions. Parents can never truly accept that their children are grown individuals. It’s the heart that shields the eyes and deceives the mind. Good luck to your daughter. And much peace to you. 🙂

  4. You are so right. We need them now more than they need us. I’m a grandma and my Heart still needs my kids more than they need me. I don’t think the hole will ever go away, and maybe it shouldn’t. For years I’ve finally thought to wonder how my parents felt when I went cluelessly on my way. Now, when I try to express my love to my kids I remind them – You are the parent of teenagers, you understand exactly what I’m feeling for you. You will always be my kids. It occurs to me as I write this – we’ve come full circle. It’s comforting.

  5. Exactly this. Doing the job right means you’re rewarded with a hole in the soul. They’re a part of us, and their absence an ache and a joy – the pride you mentioned is paramount as they make their way as adults. And grandkids sometimes bring them back around more often.

  6. Deep! I’d say, give yourself a pat on your back if your daughter is independent enough to support herself in a different country! 😀 I’m sure you’ve raised her very well.

  7. Reblogged this on Surprised By Joy and commented:
    Yesterday as I was going to take a shower, my toddler came into the bathroom and wanted to come in too. I was shampooing my hair with one hand while I held him in the other and he giggled as he bobbed his hand in and out of the spray. Hearing his laughter, my six year old daughter came into the bathroom and wanted to join the fun. As I stood in a corner of the shower getting mostly clean, I didn’t yearn for my privacy, I thought of this beautiful post written by Jack Canfora on the Pointless Overthinking blog.

  8. My mom says it’s harder when your kids are adults. They’re living their own lives but you’re still worried about them and what they’re doing. You have to learn to let go and let them make their own mistakes

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