Motherhood feels like a rubber band….or a severe mood disorder. It begins with pregnancy and the hormones, aka moods, which come with it; we are happy, sad, angry, hungry, elated, scared, excited and depressed all within about 20 minutes. As the pregnancy progresses, we want to keep our baby inside and not share them with the world but at the same time, we desperately want our baby OUT so we can move freely and without discomfort. Then our baby arrives and the emptiness leaves us feeling lonely without them inside and we want them back to ourselves.
Then in the toddler years we are excited that our little one can walk and move about without constantly being toted around. It gives our little tike a sense of freedom and independence and our hips a nice break. As they toddle off, we want them to come back and repeat such phrases as ”don’t go too far!”, “come give mommy a kiss”, “don’t go there, come here”, “don’t touch that, come this way.” As they get more and more comfortable and excited about their freedom, they venture further and we cling to them realizing they are no longer our precious, needy baby and we want them closer.
And then comes the preschool/kindergarten years. We are happy that our children are confident, independent and learning cooperation with their friends. We start scheduling “drop off” play dates and group play parties. We enjoy the fact that we can leave this older child alone to play and use their imagination. Yet, now, they want to cling to us! And not in a sweet, endearing way but rather in a “maw….awwm….I’m bored” kind of way. We want them to go play and shoo them off like little mosquitos quite often. Then we get sentimental at how big they are and we want them to come snuggle but they pull away only to come back to hang on our arms until we say “GO PLAY!” again. This is a very dysfunctional time wanting them near and far at the same time
While I don’t have any children beyond kindergarten, I have a tween niece and remember those years vividly. During these years they are still little but desperately want to be big and grown up. These years mimic the preschooler/kindergartner years in many ways but with added tween attitude and arguments and parents say and think “GO PLAY!”
Then, the teenage years bring all kinds of angst and they want nothing to do with their parents anymore but parents want their teens safe and sound at home. Parents want the control they used to have over who their kids spend time with, what they eat and drink, and when they go to bed. That loss of control brings loud thoughts of “pleeeaase, come back!”
And finally, as our babies grow into adults, we (hopefully) accept that they are forming their own lives and we no longer demand them to come back or go play but just wish for their happiness. Hopefully, at this point, when parents finally let go, is when children want to come back. It may be because they have nowhere to go or with any luck, like I did; it’s because they realize how smart their parents are, how wise they are, how helpful they are and how much they are loved by them. These are the years when your child may start asking you to come back. I can only hope this is the case with my children.
Children make our emotions feel like a rubber band that never seems to stay still; days can be exhausting stretching back and forth between frustration and joy. While being needed and wanting to say “go play” can make us feel claustrophobic, we inevitably miss it when it is no longer. I hope I can always be the mother my children need even if I am far from perfect; that they will not go too far when I say “go play” and that they will “come back” willingly when I need them. I hope they can accept the mother they have and learn from my short comings without too much resentment. I hope they don’t sit in therapy thirty years from now examining why I did the things I did; but I can only hope that one day they too will understand or at least sympathize with the metaphorical parenting rubber band.