Letting Go

Driver's Ed

I just got back from taking my “baby” to get her driver’s permit. She passed! And now I have to decide what emotion I’m feeling after paying the $32.50 that was required for her to smile for a photo that allows her to legally get behind the wheel of an automobile. Is it pride? Fear? Sadness?

Wistfulness might be the closest to what I’m feeling, but not in a melancholy or regretful way – wistful, as in reflective.

I have raised my “baby” to grow up to be an independent, young woman. And to be honest, I was shocked that she’d waited this long to take the test – an accurate picture of how different it is growing up in Portland, Oregon rather than Indianapolis, Indiana. Portland, as you may have heard in any number of magazines, is one of the easiest places in the world to get around without ever needing to know how to drive. We have several ways of getting from point A to point B. Our Tri-met system includes busses with routes all over the city and beyond, The Streetcar, The Max, and more bike lanes than almost anywhere else in the country. Indianapolis, on the other hand, was a place where to take a bus from where I lived, I’d have to drive to find a bus stop several miles away, first. Things might be different today, but the day I turned 16, I made my parents take me directly to the DMV so I could pick up my license and drive us all home – and I never looked back.

It just seems that now that it’s my girl’s turn to be in the driver’s seat, that the time has passed too quickly. Now, I promise all the newish parents reading this that I have not forgotten how rough it was at first. When I was doing it myself, I felt like the 4th Trimester was some of the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life! For the record, I still feel this way! But despite these feelings, I did it again three more times! What is wrong with me?!

Well, it gets better from there (I promise!) And while I’ll admit that there are moments in that newborn period that are so full of wonder and awe it’s almost magical, I think those same babies become so much more interesting as they get older.

Half of my children are teenagers right now, and I’m going to share something with those of you still stuck in diaper and breastfeeding mode: Do not buy into the myth that teenagers are terrible people that you will hate having in your life almost as much as they will hate having you for their parents.

I think this narrow expectation is at the root of a lot of the issues that can crop of between parents and their teens, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Broaden your expectations about this time, and try to remember what it was like to have your hormones in control of your body, your mind and your soul  – and you’ll do okay. I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk, I’m just not sure that reality always fits the myth. So true for most of the stories you hear about parenting – at any age.

One thing that I’ve been told (by my own mother, nonetheless) that has proven to be absolutely true about parenting is this: “The days go by slowly, but the years go by too fast.”

I am reminded of this today, as my girl takes that next necessary, anticipated and completely supported step toward her full independence from me. I remember our first Christmas together as a new little family and marvel at all that has transpired since. This act of parenting never ends, and in ways even though it’s so much easier now, in others it’s even harder.

Not the parenting, per se, but the act of letting go.

It’s been happening since the moment she left my body, even before the umbilical cord was cut, she was already leaving me – this one being suddenly made two – and I am preparing myself for her full leave-taking which will be happening soon. The next two and half years will be chock full of days that go by at a snail’s pace, but I will blink and the years will have flown away.

So, in this season of gifts, recognize the gifts of your family as they are, in real-time, in all its messiness. Try your hardest to not wish it to move forward too soon. Time is already taking care of that for you.

Look at your baby in your arms once again. Memorize the contours of her sleeping face, feel the weight of her warm and trusting body nestled against you. Give thanks to the ones that made you a parent. And begin the wistful process of letting them go.

The secret beauty of it all is that they never really leave you – they are forever imprinted upon your heart.

Are you still in that phase of, “When will this challenge ever end?” Is it possible to pause to be in these moments with your little one(s) – even if this moment is not pretty and moving in slow motion – and savor them?

I’m Ready for My Close Up!

Capture10:3

As new parents you might be tempted to try and capture every moment with your new baby. This is true of almost every parent – even those of us who had babies before smart phones were ever invented! (I know, I know… I’m old.)

I’m putting this in writing for the sake of my two younger children – it’s not that I care any less for them. But if you were to look around my house, it would  appear that I only have two children. And really, it would look like I adore #1, and I kinda like #2 based solely on the number of actual photos that are in frames. And then I just stopped having children. In reality, I went on to have two more. It’s not that I don’t capture any moments of #3 or #4, it’s just that they’re all stuck on the computer,or my phone. Rarely do they ever get posted anywhere! Am I bad Momma? No, I’m a just busy one.

I’m happen to be #4 of six children in my own family. My oldest brother’s baby book was completed from cover to cover – snips of light brown curls from his first haircut, his first lost tooth, all of the major milestones written out in detail. And my baby book? Well – at least it has my name written in it.

Now, when I was young, I was a little resentful of that, I’m not going to lie to you. But today? Not a chance – because I recognize just how full my life is and trying to capture every single damn minute of our amazing fun and exciting adventures would be impossible! (Just a hint of sarcasm here.) I’m also not someone who’s very good at the selfie (I just got on Instagram six months ago and I think I’ve posted five times). Clearly, photography is not one of my strengths.

I’d like to provide a word of caution to all of you new parents about trying to capture all of those countless moments of your baby as a newborn. Take some, for sure, because in looking back you won’t be able to remember they were ever that tiny when they were fresh and new to this world. But sometimes, when the urge to snap a quick photo and post to social media hits you, stop yourself and just try to take it all in. This moment, now. What made it so important that you wanted everyone to see it? Reflect on that and maybe capture that image, that moment, in your heart instead.

So much of our lives are lived online these days that it’s precious relief to find stolen moments when no one else needs to see this or experience it except for you and your new little family. Breathe in the scent of your delicious new little baby, smile at the sweetness with which your partner gives them a bath, take a selfie of the three of you – that no one else will ever see.

Some of this transition to parenting is so very hard and real and messy – but we rarely ever see a post or a picture about that anywhere. We’ve yet to find an outlet that allows or approves of the reality of new parenting. And so instead, the only things we ever see are how wonderful life is with a newborn. A lot of it is, but let’s be real – a lot of it isn’t. Don’t get sucked into the myth that your worth as new parents needs to live up to the “magical moments” you capture for consumption on social media.

I’m not saying to stop being a part of the social media landscape, I’m in it, too! But recognize, as well, that every single second of every single day your baby is changing and growing – and so are you. All of you moving through this “new normal” that feels so abnormal while you’re stuck in the middle of it. But the only images that ever make it onto your computer screen or phone, are the great ones. We don’t post the not-so-great ones, do we? Maybe it’s because when we look back, we only want to remember that it was a positive time, our transition to parenthood. But that’s not based on reality and I think it robs you and your partner from acknowledging the incredibly hard work that went into this life-changing transformation.

So, maybe you capture a few of the not-so-great images, too. Don’t worry, you don’t need to post them anywhere, they can be just for you. Images that record your early parenting “fails” to help you realize that this is how it’s always been: a series of ups and downs as you learn and grow into this new role that has been thrust upon you. When you think about it, nine months is really not enough time to be truly prepared for the enormity of parenting. But you can do this. You are doing this. It’s not necessary to capture every moment of it for posterity. There are things about this time that make permanent impressions that will never be forgotten.

Because they’ve been captured in your heart.

As new parents are you finding it challenging to keep up with the task of capturing all the milestones of your new baby’s life? Would it make your transition easier to lighten up on this a little bit? What are your thoughts about capturing the not-so-great moments of new parenting?