By Maria Riley
Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
A tattered “Room Mom” hat remains tucked away in a bright but dusty room in the back of my mind. The silver minivan that played Grease and Mulan during endless Riley road trips cruised on to the next family long ago, and with it an expired mom-turned-taxi-driver’s license. My parenting resume, once packed with diverse family management skills, seems leaner, no longer including descriptions like “juggler extraordinaire.” And although I’m still “Mom,” “Mommy” has been erased—like a beloved nickname stripped from a child at the first signs of puberty.
Summer’s approach suddenly appears void of tireless, strategic plans to quiet the relentless cries of childhood boredom. Thus begins my struggle of figuring out how to quiet my own cries.
As the mother of a high school junior, my parenting role has changed significantly over the past year or so, and I saw it coming long ago. The plain truth: I’m not needed as much in a hands-on kind of way. Of course, I’m there for guidance and meeting all of my daughter’s everyday needs. For the last 16 years, my world has revolved around Jordan, completely. And I’ve loved it; it’s completed me. Watching her blossom and grow into this amazing young woman fills me with awe and happiness. But if I’m truthful, it fills me with a little bit of sadness too. If I’m not spending all of my time being Jordan’s mom, then who am I?
It’s not like I’ve totally lost myself within the walls of motherhood. When Jordan was eight-years-old, I left my marketing career to attend college, pursue my writing passion and earn an English degree. Parenting remained my first priority; each semester, my school schedule centered around Jordan’s so that I wouldn’t miss a thing. It proved challenging but it worked. It’s just what you do when you have kids.
So it’s a little strange now to think about concentrating on finding myself rather than on losing her. But that’s what I’m setting out to do. I know it’s important. Being a strong role model has been an integral part of parenting, and I want to continue the trend. Jordan should see that I, and eventually she, can be a parent–a mom–while maintaining a sense of self.
For the first time in a long time, I think about returning to school. I dream about living in Spain. I date my husband again. I hang out with girlfriends. I exercise. I write. I build my social media business. And all the while I relish the moments with my daughter. As I write this, she texts me while shopping in Union Square–something she does quite a bit and something we rarely do together. She no longer needs me by her side, tugging on the waist of shorts or jeans, making sure they’re the proper fit. She knows what she’s looking for.
To read the full column at New York Family Magazine click here.
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