As graduations and other milestones abound this time of year, it reminds me of the bittersweet moments in all parents' lives when our kids grow up and move on to a new phase a little too quickly for our comfort sometimes. I've thought a lot about why these moments are bittersweet - why we are so happy to see how far our children have come, to see a glimpse of the big person he or she is becoming, yet deep down, there's a feeling of "they don't need me anymore."
I hope you can relate to this story no matter how old your children were when you felt those growing pains...
And just so you know, the baby I talk about below will begin kindergarten this fall.
With an arch of her back, our symbiotic relationship was done, the ritual of breastfeeding abruptly shifting from her number one reason to wake to something that burdened her, an act that kept her cloaked from really living. It's often said babies need nine months in the womb and nine months out before they are whole. I think it was nine months to the day that my baby, my youngest of four, proclaimed she wasn't a baby any longer.
With only two teeth, the recently exposed world of table food held her in its grasp. My Natalie went from nursing four times a day to one morning not wanting one more solitary drop... zilch, cold turkey, nada.
I took her to the Doctor.
"Is she sick?" I asked.
"Nope, she's just being a stinker," he replied.
With a lump in my throat, my hormone levels rose each day her milk strike went on.
By day four, the feeling of "she doesn't need me anymore" swallowed me whole.
As silly as it sounds that a not even mobile infant wouldn't need her mother any longer, it's how I was really feeling. Along with her refusal to breastfeed, no longer were her giggles and stares of admiration just for me. When others came near, she suddenly came alive, the world at once exciting and colorful.
Days later, I was vacuuming the carpet and trying to swallow the lump of sadness that choked me, when for the first time ever, I got a call from my oldest son's school. He had fallen and hit his head during recess, and they wanted me to bring him home for observation. On the way to the school, the choking lump let up a bit, leaving its gentle friend in its wake that hugged, "Your kids will always need you, though the shape and form of their needs will change."
Now, each time I feel one of these parental growing pains, I try to remember that phrase instead.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.