Yesterday she made her own breakfast for the first time without my help.

And if it seems to you a little odd that my daughter would be doing this fairly simple task for the first time at age 9, well, I’d say you’re likely onto something.

Sigh. It’s hard, isn’t it — the letting go?

When they’re little, everything is so clear, so crisply defined. You hold their hand, you wipe their butt, you do what needs to be done – which is, really, everything or almost everything – because they need you. They need you and need you and need you, and there is no clear point at which they shift from that all-consuming needing-to-be-taken-care-of to the opposite pole of needing-to-be-let-go-of. There are no signposts, no obvious markers along the path to tell you when it’s time to release the parental death grip and give them control.

And allow me to let you in on something relevant here, something telling: I actually felt guilty for having her make her own breakfast. Yes, you heard correct: guilty. I know, I’m insane, right? But not making my child’s breakfast felt… strangely, almost instinctively negligent on my part somehow. Because isn’t that what Moms do – what *I* do? What does it mean to not do that? Am I being a bad Mom by not doing that? OH HAI, WELCOME TO MY NEUROSIS – PULL UP A CHAIR AND GRAB YOURSELF A DRINK, HOLMES.

Of course I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say something about how one of the difficult things about being a parent is that the job changes. That what your kid needs at ages 3, 5, 8, and 11 is not the same. That there comes a time when giving them control, power, and independence is what’s best for them, and that to do otherwise is to stifle their development.  Intellectually, I know this. I’ve read the same manuals you have. But the fact remains that my GUT – including my squishy-soft Mother’s heart – clearly didn’t get the memo, AND BESIDES SHE’S STILL MY BABY AND WILL ALWAYS BE MY BABY NO MATTER HOW BIG AND COMPETENT AND NOT-NEEDING-ME SHE GETS, GODDAMMIT.


This morning we arrived at school a bit too early for drop off.

Me: Just stay in the car with me until they open the doors. I don’t want you hanging around outside without an adult for 10 minutes.

Her: Mom, it’s right in front of the school. I do it all the time when Dad drops me off.

Me: Really? Oh. Well.

Her: Yeah.

Me: Uhh, okay. Well, then, umm, just sit on the steps right by the door then, okay?

Her, pecking me on the cheek: I love you.

Me: I love you too. Have a good day!

Her: I will!

Me: Don’t talk to strangers!

Her: [eyeroll, closes car door behind her]

I sat there in the car watching her slowly work her way toward the general area of the school’s steps, but somehow felt I couldn’t leave. I turned my left signal on, making as though I would merge into traffic and disappear, but I kept hesitating, watching her. Hovering, for crissakes. Finally, she caught a glimpse of me there, still looking at her, and her eyes widened in that exasperated ‘ARE YOU FOR REAL?’ kind of way. She made a quick flicking motion with her head, nudging me in the direction of traffic, urging me to take off and scram and stop looking after her already.

I put my foot on the gas and eased away from the curb. I did what she wanted and needed. I did what was right for her. But I didn’t stop looking back.

This entry was posted in favorites, misc. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to In-between

  1. Rita Arens says:

    I am right there with you, sister.

  2. amanda says:

    Oh this is so good. I love this. I have an almost-5-year-old, and I know we are ticking down the moments before I will get the eye rolls too. And I will be just like you.

  3. SNIFF. full stop. already, i see this coming and i feel flattened by it, by the certainty of my failing to know what to do.

  4. maggie wilkin says:

    I am with you too. Trying to figure out what level of independence my 10 year old is ready for and what is appropriate. Unfortunately there is no manual, it is different for every kid and every parent!

  5. Awwwww….

    I tell my 5yo he’ll always be my baby, even when he’s a big, tall man. He’s says he’s okay with that, but to everyone else he’ll be a Big Guy.

    The nice thing about them making their own breakfast is that when you do make for them again, they really understand what a special thing it is when Mommy makes breakfast – how much love is involved in the act. They start to “get it”. And that’s good, too. I want my kiddos to know just how much they are loved. Sometimes, words aren’t enough…it takes a pancake or two. :-)

  6. Laura Healy says:

    Oh! This is so spot on. My boy’s 11 and we are making course selections for jr, high school next year and struggling with what decisions are his to make and where we need to exert some parental guidance and what choices will be better for him and driving back after dropping him off this morning I was pounding on the steering wheel and muttering “parenting sucks…”

    When to hold on, when to let go?

  7. christine stephens says:

    There’s a girl who knows she’s loved. You have a great heart, Trace.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You”ll never stop looking back.


  9. I’m there too. My 11 year old is trying to be more self-sufficient and I’m encouraging it… BARELY. God. Parenting is hard.

  10. Amanda Ferguson says:

    totally get it.

  11. rcleland says:

    A good mommy is constantly striving to do an excellent job of working her way out of a full time job.

    My 3 daughters are grown, and I am now the happy blessed gramma of 8 grandchildren. Watching my babies raise their babies is awesome!

    We want to do everything for them. To protect them from every little bump, bruise and heartbreak, but we cannot! They need to hurt, to feel responsible for thier actions. To stand in front of school by themselves with full confidence and knowledge that they are good enough, and can do it all my themselves. And we watch from afar proudly, while sobbing softly in our hearts.

    Yesterday I was reminded how grandparents can raise axe murderers and thieves by being too soft. My grandson stole something when out on an outing with his step-dad. He asked daddy what the gift cards were for. Daddy told him, and instructed him to put them back. He kept 2 of them. As a Valentines gift for his mommy.

    After the lecture of right and wrong was administered, the discipline meeted out, by his mom and dad, and the consequences put in action, he cried. I wanted to comfort him, and stop his tears when he was in his room to think about this all. And had to realize, he needs to think this through. To realize the error of his actions. He needed to suffer now in his 6 year old self, so when he is older, he understands that stealing is wrong.

    We all survived, and he is getting on with life. Heart bruised a bit, but still knowing he is LOVED! We made sure he knew that his behaviour was wrong, but he is an awesome kid.

    We are a 4 generation family, making our way through the days with love, discipline and humor.

    Gramma of 7 plus 1

  12. Susan Dunning says:

    So…forgive me, but what kind of breakfast are we talking about here? Because my 11-year-old stepdaughter can barely get herself a bowl of cereal. I’ve often thought she should have more self-care skills, so to speak, than she does…and maybe I’m more right than I realize. Totally receptive to anyone’s input here.

    On the other hand, I am also the mother to a 2-year-old and just thinking about him someday not needing me just kills me! My husband and I have to constantly remind each other, “Let him try to do it for himself…” and even now, it’s so hard. So, yeah, parenting = epic on the difficulty scale.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have no helpful advice. I am right there with you. At ten (and just ten for christs sake) Morgan still seems like a baby to me. But then, she’s also so not. It’s hard to know what to hold onto and what to let go of. We just had a conversation the other night about me not needing to ask her if she did her homework anymore. She’s old enough to just do it and I have to somehow be okay with that. Yeah. She started that one. She’s right too. I ask every day and every day she has already done it. Of course her sister, I may need to still call in college and ask her. Ha.

    These kids need to come with a freaking manual.

Comments are closed.