One of my friends said something that really resonated with me today: “We’re at the parenting stage now.”
Oh, how right she is!
Though I haven’t been able to spell it out as eloquently and succinctly as she did, that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling.
You see, the first few months of motherhood are spent trying to keep a baby alive. I know how weird that sounds, but it’s true –it’s all about the essentials: food, clothing, shelter, and, most important — love. Then, as a baby learns to eat solids and sit up and crawl and then eventually walk, things get a little more exciting, and Mom’s role morphs.
As I see it, somewhere around the 15-month mark, a mother transitions from just being “Mom” (read as: source of nourishment, nurturing, nuzzles, etc) to a full-fledged “parent” (read as: source of guidance, disciplinarian, teacher, confidence-booster). “Mom” is still very much there; it’s just that her role changes.
Though every child is different, generally speaking, by the 15-month mark, gone are the days of teaching your child to sleep through the night/nap/crawl/walk/ditch the bottle, etc.
At this juncture, toddlers are fairly self-sufficient (I use that term loosely; clearly they are not ready to be left alone to their own devices!). You’re on a nicely paved path now where things like teething and illness will serve as temporary roadblocks, but, generally speaking, things are going pretty smoothly.
This is when mothers truly become parents.
Of course, we’re always “Mom” — and we’re still there for the hugs and laughs and to kiss a boo-boo and make it all better. But now we add another activity to the Mom job description — parenting: actually setting the stage for our children to be successful, happy, healthy and, yes, independent (*tear*).
[This isn’t to say this activity of parenting is new, it’s inherent to the title of “mom”; just that it becomes more and more critical the older a child gets].
Now in addition to being Mom, we’re also there as parents — to set boundaries (forever to be tested), encourage veggie consumption and active play and “please” and ‘thank you,” foster good communication and social skills, instill self-esteem/confidence, teach our kids it’s not OK to hit/bite/pull hair, be supportive of emotions … and later, potty-train, teach our kids how to read and write, how to be a good friend, etc.
It’s brand-new territory, and it’s intimidating. Toddlers are watching their parents’ every move at this stage, and they must lead by example. (i.e., we can’t tell Maya not to put her feet on the couch and then do it ourselves).
This is where their tabula rosa begins to get written on — sketched out, filled in, lines erased, dots connected. And we, as parents, have a tremendous role in shaping our children, their beliefs, their talents, their passions. We can begin to teach them right from wrong; teach them morals and values; how to treat others kindly and with respect. How to love.
There’s no template, and what worked for baby #1 won’t work for #2 and #3. Personalities will be different, attitudes and behaviors and likes and dislikes different.
But there is something equally empowering and terrifying about having so much influence — especially in these formative years. It’s a lot of pressure, and all you can do is give it your best shot and hope your kids turn out OK.
Right now she can’t get enough of me — I’m Mama. She follows me into the bathroom; cries when I drop her off at daycare; races into my arms, squealing in delight; nestles herself in my lap while we read and sing; buries her head into my neck. I’m Mama.
But I know it won’t always be like this. There will come a time where she won’t always like me or what I have to say … and we might disagree about who she wants to date and where she wants to go and when she needs to be home (if her daddy has her way, she will remain home til she is 40!!) …
I want her to know that I would lay down my life to protect her, and will give her every opportunity we can to be the best version of herself that she can be: healthy, happy, confident and strong.
This new chapter, “Parenthood” is really the rest of the story into infinity (even when your child is a parent himself, you’re still his mom — and still his parent).
And at the end of the day, I’m still Mom; I’m still — as another blogger put it so beautifully — “home base.”
How about you? Did you feel a similar transition from mom to parent? If so, when was that?