I've reached this delicate stage in raising children that I call The Push and The Pull. Many of you parents can probably relate to the Push and Pull.
The Push starts very early on in your child's life. You push them to learn how to talk, walk, potty, and sleep independently. You thanklessly help them learn manners and how to be a functional human in society. You push them to dress themselves, learn how to make a snack by themselves, and tie their own shoes. There even comes a day when you teach them to ride their bike without training wheels. You push so delicately and then let go. Off they go. Without you.
That's about the time that The Pull started for me.
During the Off They Go.
I watched my bright-eyed baby pedal and pump her legs as she drove shrieking off down the driveway without training wheels or my help. I realized that she didn't need my help. She could do it just fine by herself.
As parents, it's easy to get caught up in the daily Push of raising an independent child that is confident and sure of themselves. Those power struggles over outfits that don't match, spilled milk over the I-can-do-it-myself, and the tedious task of watching a 6-year-old try to tie their own shoes can easily feel that the stage of The Push will last forever.
But it doesn't.
It's over before you know it and The Pull starts sneaking up on you.
You start to notice that you don't mind brushing her knotted up hair for the 3rd time that day because you start to realize that soon enough, she won't
You start to appreciate watching your 8 year-old try to make a sandwich and dirtying every dish in the house. You don't care because The Pull whispers in your ear that some day too soon, they won't be standing so low to the counter top.
As the sun sets on childhood, The Push starts to fade away. As they enter the teen years, The Pull slowly creeps in and takes over.
The Push in the teen years changes and looks a little different. The Push turns in to encouraging them to get active in school and their community. The Push helps them look at colleges or trade schools after high school. The Push helps navigate the next chapter into their young adult life.
But at the same time The Pull is actually pulling as hard as it can.
The Pull tugs on your heart every time you notice a "last."
The last classroom party at school.
The last Family Reading Night at school.
The last Christmas concert.
The last time she let you do her hair.
The last time he asked you to tuck him in bed.
That's when The Pull is pulling so hard that there are times that you think you might break. Like The Pull is going to pull and stretch your heart so far, like a rubber band, and you worry that it might break. A small lump forms in your throat and you're not quite sure if you can breathe without letting out a gasp of sadness. Fighting back those tears from The Pull you remember when they were little. You are reminded of a time when they needed you.
When you could walk through the grocery store parking lot and hold their little hand.
That tiny, little hand wrapped in yours. That warm, sticky, tiny, little hand.
But then The Push steps up with a heroic reminder that you have so much more to watch them accomplish. The Push reminds you that they have so much more to experience, to learn, and to see in this life. And in that journey you will be right there.
By their side.
While you may not be holding that tiny, little hand, you will forever be there to give advice, offer a listening ear, and provide an encouraging word. The Push and The Pull are reminders to savor every minute, every second.
Memorize every little sparkle in their eyes, every wrinkle in their nose and every mispronounced word that they speak. Enjoy every bedtime tuck-in, every 4th trip to get a drink, every snuggle in the morning and every sleepless night. Because The Pull will remind you that someday you will be able to sleep through the night and instead of feeling relief, you'll feel a bit melancholy.
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