JJ Heller on the bittersweet nature of parenting.

JJ Heller
JJ Heller

It's been incredible to watch my little girls graduate from diapers, baby food and cribs to bunkbeds, backpacks and homework. I know everyone says this, but it happened so fast! One day they were learning how to walk, and now they're six and nine year-olds riding their scooters with friends in the alley behind our house. I used to have to cut up their food and now they're packing their own lunches for school. Even as their physical needs are decreasing, their emotional needs are starting to ramp up. The "tweens" are just around the corner.

When I was a kid, I didn't think much about all the ways my parents provided for me. I knew I could count on them to give me enough food, water, and even several brand new outfits to wear during the first week of school each year. I didn't think about all the emotional support they provided. Like the way my mom would come to every single one of my basketball, volleyball and softball games, and how her voice was consistently the loudest cheerer in the crowd (and I mean this literally!). I didn't think about how much confidence it gave me when my dad would take me to the gym every Sunday night and rebound for me as I shot baskets over and over.

I remember the day my mom and I left home to make the four-hour drive up to my new college. Before I left, my Dad gave me a hug and I saw him cry for maybe the second time in my whole life. I imagine those tears were a mixture of pride for how grown-up I had become and also sadness that I wouldn't be living under his roof anymore. It was the tension of parenting summed up in that one bittersweet moment. Equipping and letting go.

As my kids grow, my husband and I are trying to teach our kids the practical and emotional skills they need to thrive in the world without us. And little by little, they become stronger and wiser. And little by little, we have to let go. But if we've done our job well, we can trust that our children, no matter how old they are, will still reach out their hand to us. As a mother, I pray that no matter how old they are, whether they need help with a task or simply our love and affection, they always know they have my hand to hold.  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.