“Michael!! What are you doing?!?
I was in the driveway, taking my other 3-year-old son out of our Jeep, and just seconds before, I‘d taken Michael out and sent him to the front stairs to wait for us.
When I looked up to check on him, there he was, shorts around his ankles, a proud and somewhat amused smile on his face, peeing off the stairs into the bushes,
I didn’t know whether to rush in for a quick rescue, look around and see if any neighbors were witnessing this, or run up and high-5 him.
While this might not be unusual male behavior, it was for Michael. Up to this point, he’s always needed me to pull his shorts down to pee, even though I was pretty sure he could do it himself. And he’s only gone sitting on the potty, unless I was there to help him make a ‘waterfall’ in the bushes. He’s had a few accidents waiting for me to get to him, but today, I was pretty impressed that he had figured things out by himself: to get his short down, aim for the bushes – and pee standing up.
With every new achievement that I high-5 my son for, right behind it is the vague awareness that this is one less thing he needs me for. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not at all dreading the day he can figure out when and where and how to pee by himself. But the excitement over seeing my kids learn how to do all these new things by themselves has a slightly bittersweet sting.
It’s peeing now, but soon it will be getting dressed, tying his shoes, taking a shower – all the way to the moment he’s telling me he can do everything by himself.
With each new accomplishment, he’s needing me less.
For moms, sometimes that feels like foreshock of an earthquake – an indication of what’s to come. As much as we want their independence (and ours), we know our place when they need us.
And we’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves when they don’t.
The Good News and the Bad News
Here’s the good news: your kids will never stop needing you. What they need you for will change as they grow, but mom and dad will always be a safe place for them to go. It’s not like your kids will leave you because they don’t need you and never, ever come back.
Here’s the bad news: your kids will never stop needing you. There’s no retirement from being a parent. Even when they’re older and moved out of the house and living independent lives, mom and dad will still be their go-to. They’ll still come to you from time to time (or more) to talk or get advice in the middle of the night, to crash in their old room, to borrow money, to bail them out (hopefully, that’s just figurative).
And deep down, I think there’s something in us that loves it.
Your kids will never stop needing you – and here’s how I know this:
I Still Need My Parents
There’s a peace that goes way down in our souls in knowing that our parents will always be there for us. It’s so comforting to know that you don’t have to have all the answers, even as an adult. That there’s someone older, wiser that you can lean on. Someone who can at least emotionally take charge when you are feeling weak and like a mess of a human being.
Although I’m a new mom, I’m not a young mom – and I still need my parents.
So much so, in fact, that I did the unthinkable. In the dead of winter, I swooped up my then 2-year-old-twin boys to fly to Florida to see my parents. – solo. just me. with them. on an airplane.
We had a tough winter here in NY – someone sick every week, the numbing cold, the claustrophobic cabin fever. Sometime in January, I’d had enough: I was cashing in every Southwest point I’d been hoarding – and then some – and I was getting out. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was, hands down, one of the most stressful and humiliating experiences of my life. Thankfully, NY to Florida by air is only about 3 hours of torture and somewhat survivable, though I’m not sure the people sitting in front of and around us would say the same.
It was a super-crazy idea, in retrospect – but there was something in me that needed to be near my parents. I didn’t need them to do anything. I didn’t need them to watch my boys. I didn’t need to be entertained.
I just needed their presence. Someone that was stronger than I was.
Just this week, my parents came up from Florida for their annual northern migration, and internally, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Usually, when they’re here, I’ll grab my dad for home projects or car repairs. I’ll get my mom to watch the boys so I can make doctors appointments and get my yearly haircut (yes, that’s what it’s come to over here).
But not this time. No appointments, no fixer-uppers, no repairs (well, just one – but it was a really, quick minor one). I just needed them. Their presence. I needed my dad to come for a drive with me and the boys and hear them chatter in the backseat. I needed my mom to listen while I vented about how tiring and stressful and overwhelming life is with twin toddler boys. I needed my dad to encourage me and tell me I’m the best mom in the world and that I’m still his girl. I needed my mom to bring me a cup of coffee and keep me company while the boys played at the library.
I just needed them.
I don’t need them the way I used to when I was a kid. Or a teenager. Or when I was in college. Or when I moved back home after college. Or when I was a jet-setting single. Or when I was a heart-broken, miserable single. Or when I was conflicted over what to do with my life. Or when I got married.
It’s always different in the ways I’ve need them, but the bottom line is still the same: I need them. Always have. Always will.
And your kids will always need you, too. Not always in the same way, but they’ll always need you.
All Kinds of Role Reversals
Our roles as parents change with our kids. Hopefully, when they’re adults, we get a whole new level of enjoyment when we can relate as (somewhat) mature adults.
But sometimes, that parent-child relationship isn’t always so linear. Sometimes there’s drama, sometimes there are strained feelings, sometimes it’s not so cotton-candy fluffy.
Sometimes, the kids end up taking care of the parents. The roles reverse in both directions – us taking care of our parents and our kids potentially taking care of us.
Knowing that’s a possibility leaves me unnerved. It unsettles me to think that I might be a parent to my parents. Or that my sons might need to be the parent to me someday.
There’s a definite sadness when that happens… to see some weaknesses in the ones we counted on to be our pillars of strength. To feel like you’re just left hanging out there. With no support. With no one stronger than you to share the worry and stress and provide comfort.
What happens when there are all those kinds of role reversals?
God Will Always Be the Parent
I’m a fan of bottom lines. Give me the least common denominator. Tell me what all this means in context.
Well, it’s this:
We will always need our parents. Our kids will always need us. But neither relationship is perfect nor can they give us the relational security our hearts crave.
It all boils down to the fact that the more permanent, more substantial, more stable parent-child relationship is with our true Father in heaven.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”God will always be the parent. There will never be a role reversal. We’ll never have to be the most-grown-up person in that relationship. He’ll always be the One who is bigger, stronger, smarter, more stable, more reliable, more devoted.” quote=”One of my favorite things (among infinity things) about God is that He will always be the parent. There will never be a role reversal. We’ll never have to be the most-grown-up person in that relationship. He’ll always be the One who is bigger, stronger, smarter, more stable, more reliable, more devoted.”]
Our kids will never stop needing us, we will never stop needing our parents. But what that looks like over time is certainly subject to any number of blowing winds that we have zero control over.
But with God, we never have to worry about being the one in charge, with hard decisions to make, trying to figure out how to be in a new role.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
(Isaiah 46: 4)
Even when we are aged and ancient, He will always be the Dad. We will always be the child.
And knowing that only makes us better for the job of ‘parent’ on both sides of the equation.
Thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment and we’ll chat!
If you think others might enjoy reading this, I’d be so grateful if you shared!
More for Moms on A Hundred Affections