The Bittersweet Reality Of Knowing Your Kids Less And Less

by Melissa L. Fenton
NicolasMcComber / iStock

Their favorite food. Their favorite song. Their favorite TV show. What pair of pajamas they want to wear the most. The bedtime story they want to hear over and over again. Who their best friend is. Who their second best friend is. The subject in school they like the least. Their favorite quarterback, YouTube star, pop singer, or race car driver.

I would bet the farm you know all of these things about your children. You’ll probably answer quickly, confidently, and with pride. You’re their mother, so of course you know all these things about your kids. You’ve been riding shotgun to them for as long as you can remember, and you’ve been witness to the organic development of all of their likes and dislikes.

You’re always there. Always.

Mothers know their children intimately and deeply, and it’s comforting and reassuring thing to have all that knowledge at your disposal. It means you’re still their go-to person.

Until one day, when you’re not.

Until one day when they’re texting their new best friend, and you don’t know who that person is.

Until one day when they start talking about that great movie they saw last weekend, and you think, “They went to a movie last weekend?”

Until one day when they need new underwear and socks, and instead of asking you to buy them, they go out shopping on their own — with their own money. And they buy what they like, not what you like.

Until one day when they ask you to make salmon for dinner, and you’re sitting there dumbfounded and thinking, “Wait, since when do you eat salmon?”

Until one day when they’re gabbing (flirting?) on the telephone and refuse to tell you who they’re talking to. A girlfriend?

Until one day when the pediatrician asks to talk to him alone. Without me?

Until one day when they spend hours hanging out somewhere with their friends, and you realize they’re probably not at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And you have to be okay with that.

Until one day you hear them listening to NPR and think, he’s got a thing for politics now?

Until one day when they come home from college on break and talk of friends you’ll never meet, of late-night shenanigans you never knew happened, of professors they adore from classes you didn’t know they registered for, of the new cool hobby they’ve taken up, and how they’ve made plans to study abroad next year. ABROAD? Like, without your MOM?

And you listen to all of this new knowledge, then slink back into your well-worn soft chair (the one where you sat with that kid who once fit perfectly in your arms and you knew every single detail of his entire existence), and all you can think is, who are you now?

You’ve been sucker-punched into your new reality, and that reality is called “Letting go of your kids into the big, scary universe,” and having to do it gracefully.

That child who bore soft pudgy skin you could trace the entirety of with your fingertips — you will from here on out know less and less.

And then even less.

I know it hurts like hell to even think about, but knowing them less and less means they will be knowing themselves more and more.

Knowing them less and less means they are actually growing into the adult you just spent every second of your being the last 18 years raising them up to be.

Knowing them less and less means you succeeded at this roller-coaster ride of parenting because now they want to ride by themselves. And you need to let them. Your days of being their seat belt are over, and that’s a good thing.

You know what else happens when you know your kids less and less? You get to know yourself more and more. You get to re-learn who that woman was before she became “Mom.” You get a vital part of your adult identity back, the one that is you before you were Mom.

And you’re gonna need her back, because that kid you know less and less? The one who confidently left your nest? They will be calling her one day, and only wanting one thing — to know more and more about her. That is you. So be ready, because it’s a great thing. I promise.