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How Our Kids Invite Us to Grow Up

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calebgardner

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about what it’s like to be a parent. He has older children, so he’s a little ahead of the game compared to me. We were talking about how difficult it is to make the transition into parenthood — how it’s such a big lifestyle change; how suddenly you have this little human who is completely dependent on you for every need, physically and emotionally.

My friend compared it to the changes that happen when your child transitions into adulthood. Suddenly this kid who has depended on you for everything doesn’t want to depend on you for anything. He wants to learn how to go it alone, to prove that he’s an adult. At both age 12 and 2, they are learning to cope with the changing dynamics of their bodies, while having to learn emotional self-maintenance and stability.

And in both cases, my friend said, despite what is happening with our children, they are the ones inviting us to grow up.

I worry so much about Miles’s growth and development that I’ve never stopped to consider how much I’ve grown since he was born. I’ve learned to set my everyday wants aside, while gaining a greater understanding of the importance of self-care. I’ve learned how incredibly patient I can be, and the signals my body sends me when that patience has run out. But most importantly, at least to me, I’ve learned to be content in the everyday nuances of a seemingly “dull” life, finding joy in small victories as much as in grand adventures.

When Miles reaches that arc of adulthood, I know he’s going to invite me to grow up in different ways. He’s going to encourage me to let go of him and let him make mistakes. He’s going to increasingly invite me to see him as an equal. And it’s going to be really hard. But growing up always is.

At least at that age, we can more consciously grow up together. I’m hoping we’ll both be able to admit when it’s hard and when we make mistakes, and gain a new respect for each other. The health of our relationship beyond this household depends on it.

In what ways have you had to grow up? Are you honest with yourself about how hard it’s been?

More Parenting Posts

Caleb Gardner is an amateur father and husband who writes at The Exceptional Man and dabbles in photography, design, and music. When listening to the cacophony of modern-day America, Caleb prefers a side of Scotch. He calls Chicago home, and in winter, less-nice things.

2 Featured Comments

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  • cookoutsidethebox

    cookoutsidethebox says: Featured

    I grew up in India. Over there, it is only normal to stay with your parents until the end. I always wondered and dreamt about "growing up" on my own, especially after getting married. I used to feel jealous of my friends living in the US who were free and were living alone. But now, that I am close to having a child of my own.. I have started to wonder what system is the best. Some basic emotions like love and the bonding between parent and child stays the same universally. What differs is just the way we express it. In my culture, it is expressed by living together in a joint family. But that doesn't leave away any insecurities that come with a child getting older.

    3 years ago

  • pamspath

    pamspath says: Featured

    I have had this thought so many times and my daughter is now 32 raising her daughter who is now 8. I was 24 when I was given the gift of becoming a "guide", for over the last 32 years, I have learned that a child is only leant to us, and we are only guides. They come to us with minds, thoughts, personalities - the whole shebang - of their own. And GROW UP...I learned more about myself as I learned about her as she went through every stage of her life and we are still both growing and learning - together more now than through those tough teen years. The gift of being a parent has become even greater now that I am a "nana" - what a true blessing. Talk about a personality and a mind of her own. Watching my granddaughter and her mother growing together and starting my learning all over again! Children are just little people without all the social controls and rules we adults live with - and how they make us adults look at the world in different ways. I cannot imagine a more incredible, wonderful gift to be given or to have shared, since I also am enjoying watching and being a part of four nieces and two nephews - each one a different person and each one teaching me about the world and about me with every small bit of time we spend together.

    3 years ago

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations says:

    A wonderful way of thinking of parenthood.

    3 years ago

  • mayapar

    mayapar says:

    My kids are sometimes great guides! Together, we make a great team on the life road.... Thanks for sharing!

    3 years ago

  • FluffyFlowers

    FluffyFlowers says:

    sometimes being a grown up sucks. that became painfully apparent for me this fall when both my elderly dogs had to permanently visit rainbow bridge. those decisions were right up there with three of the hardest decisions i ever had to make in my life. but at least as grown ups we get to drink alcohol :)

    3 years ago

  • rebourne

    rebourne says:

    Being a parent has brought my anger, short temper, selfishness, and impatience into a glaringly obvious light. I'm shocked about the things that come out of my mouth on a daily basis; motherhood is a daily refining and growing. It seems like there are so many perfect, timeless moments as a mom. And then there are just as many impossible, angering, embarrassing ones. Being a mom has been my biggest honor, and my hugest challenge so far.

    3 years ago

  • masalachai

    masalachai says:

    I think becoming a parent is an amazing opportunity for personal growth, I've grown so much in the past 4 years of parenthood - in patience, in love, in selflessness, in the abilitiy to be in the moment. It is not always easy and I'm not always patient, loving, selfless or aware, but my kids are showing me the way. Great post!

    3 years ago

  • cookoutsidethebox

    cookoutsidethebox says: Featured

    I grew up in India. Over there, it is only normal to stay with your parents until the end. I always wondered and dreamt about "growing up" on my own, especially after getting married. I used to feel jealous of my friends living in the US who were free and were living alone. But now, that I am close to having a child of my own.. I have started to wonder what system is the best. Some basic emotions like love and the bonding between parent and child stays the same universally. What differs is just the way we express it. In my culture, it is expressed by living together in a joint family. But that doesn't leave away any insecurities that come with a child getting older.

    3 years ago

  • SweetandDandyVintage

    SweetandDandyVintage says:

    Wow! This is something I think about every day. You just don't know the adventure you're in for until you have a little one relying on you for their every need. Finding balance in the day to day can be really tough ... learning how to stay in touch with your soul and your own needs while trying to be the best parent possible is a lot more of a challenge than I ever could have imagined. I have a holistic Dr. that I have seen for years...he told me that the path of parenting is one of the most powerful and challenging spiritual journeys one can take. I love your articles...always so enjoyable, and so relevant to me, raising a two, almost 3 year old. Love, light, bliss and ease to you and all the dear ones in this space and beyond. :-)

    3 years ago

  • BoisetRois

    BoisetRois says:

    The most beautiful hard work: to be a (good) parent... Sometimes it's good to share experiences and feelings with someone else! Thanks.

    3 years ago

  • Daniblu

    Daniblu says:

    Love your blog I still remember the one about speech. I feel conected in so many aspects being a mom of three, 2, 6 and 12 y/o. There is a lot to learn, and sometimes seems a slow process but at the end of each step is such an enrichement... to share, guide.. what you know... and at the same time to learn from them like they can show you from above... generally the little things we pass over... with so much intensity.. that make them our greatest teachers of life as a whole. Thanks for the reminder!

    3 years ago

  • TheZestyDesk

    TheZestyDesk says:

    Parenting is a continuous challenge. As a parent I've learned that I always come second. My children's needs are first and foremost. So with recent financial strain on our family if that means that I go a bit hungry so my kids can have full tummies then so be it. And I DREAD the day they leave home.

    3 years ago

  • theroyal
  • babiesandbabes

    babiesandbabes says:

    In 18 months we went from being just the two of us to be the five of us! a boy and then twin girls, my life is so different, I am so different, I am so happy I will not change anything. Parenthood has made me a better person.

    3 years ago

  • BigRockPaperCo

    BigRockPaperCo says:

    Well said. I am a mother of three - a 13 year old, a seven and five year old. I had my first child when I was still a young adult - at 19 years of age. I notice the differences in raising a teenager versus raising a five year old - although the basic requirements are the same -- there is a certain emotional approach I have to have with each of the stages. I have grown since the age of 19. Through experience and many many parenting mistakes -- who wouldn't grow from it? I have no fear when my first two grow up and move away. It's my last one that is the end of an era for me. I can only hope and pray that when they become responsible adults that they bring my lots of grandkids...!!!

    3 years ago

  • RossLab

    RossLab says:

    Great article: thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    3 years ago

  • FabulousBeastJewels

    FabulousBeastJewels says:

    Thanks for this post. Parenting is certainly an interesting ride! The days where I get down on myself for being a less than perfect parent, it's good to remember that we are also going through a growth process. That makes the mistakes and missteps easier to bear. Thanks for the reminder Caleb. And thanks to Rebourne for your honest post! I used to feel like it was a massive failure to admit that there are days when I lose my proverbial, now I understand the failure would be in NOT admitting it :) That kind of accountability is great incentive to continue to learn and become a better person for my childs sake (and everyone elses :)). Ditto to BigRockPaperCo, about the grandkids. My daighter is only 18months, and I can already see that it's going to take 2 seconds flat before she's grown and gone - not looking forward to that, but grandkids would be awesome.

    3 years ago

  • overthemeadow

    overthemeadow says:

    Fabulous post!

    3 years ago

  • RedFernVintage

    RedFernVintage says:

    It is so hard to make the transition to parenthood, people never talk about that either which can make it even harder. Thank you for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • angelspin

    angelspin says:

    I always enjoy reading your articles. I am always able to relate to them. Thanks for sharing.

    3 years ago

  • quirkyshop

    quirkyshop says:

    Love it!

    3 years ago

  • soveryhappyart

    soveryhappyart says:

    Love your post! I had both of my children after the age of 40, and I have grown more in the last 3 years than I can ever remember. I know think of everything in relation to them--how I communicate, how I deal with hardships, how I enjoy life, and how I follow my dreams. I know that they are always watching and learning from us. I often say that my 3 year old son is like looking into a mirror. He repeats my phrases, raises his voice in response to me, and looks for my laughter. I've grown up by knowing the example I am always setting and by getting back to being a kid.

    3 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Waking up the day after we brought our twins home I remember looking over at them and asking my husband – where the hell did they come from and how long do you think they’ll stay? As it turned out they were glorious gifts and stayed long enough to teach us not to take life so seriously. The tricky part, we found, was to grow up along side them but never let them know you have no idea what you are doing. Somehow we all survived the growing pains and now enjoy each other as the adults we’ve become.

    3 years ago

  • BlueMoonLights

    BlueMoonLights says:

    Great post!

    3 years ago

  • LittleRedRory

    LittleRedRory says:

    Thank you so much for this honest glimpse into your heart. Every day, we watch our son grow into this amazing tiny person and wonder what he will be like at 5, 10.. even (shudder) at 16. Parenting is such an epic journey.. savouring the good, the bad and the sticky enriches life beyond imagining.

    3 years ago

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite says:

    I completely agree, having children and taking care of children is definitely a growing experience.

    3 years ago

  • shannspishak

    shannspishak says:

    As the parent, along with my husband, of two successful adult children, I can safely say that flexibility, patience, and lots of hard love are what it takes to raise a family. You better have a good sense of humor too, especially during the teen years. If you make that strong bond, and I don't mean " friendship bond", with your child when they're young, the older years will be a "little" easier! Just enjoy the ride because it's a roller coaster- but worth every minute :)

    3 years ago

  • niknakpatywak5

    niknakpatywak5 says:

    Thank you for your post. It made me cry. I'm a mom of a soon to be 11 year-old. Time has surely flown by. As if majic he matured over the summer. Its been a great year for us as a family. We talk and laugh all the time. Being a parent is a humbling experience. I still feel like I'm growing-up and learning. One of the things I think that has made a difference is apologizing. Saying "I'm sorry" or "I made a mistake" shows my son that I'm not a super human and that making mistakes is a normal part of living. Best wishes for you and your family.

    3 years ago

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry says:

    Super Post!!!!

    3 years ago

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana says:

    Interesting post. I guess its true that kids help you grow too. They make you more patient, understanding and loving.

    3 years ago

  • pamspath

    pamspath says: Featured

    I have had this thought so many times and my daughter is now 32 raising her daughter who is now 8. I was 24 when I was given the gift of becoming a "guide", for over the last 32 years, I have learned that a child is only leant to us, and we are only guides. They come to us with minds, thoughts, personalities - the whole shebang - of their own. And GROW UP...I learned more about myself as I learned about her as she went through every stage of her life and we are still both growing and learning - together more now than through those tough teen years. The gift of being a parent has become even greater now that I am a "nana" - what a true blessing. Talk about a personality and a mind of her own. Watching my granddaughter and her mother growing together and starting my learning all over again! Children are just little people without all the social controls and rules we adults live with - and how they make us adults look at the world in different ways. I cannot imagine a more incredible, wonderful gift to be given or to have shared, since I also am enjoying watching and being a part of four nieces and two nephews - each one a different person and each one teaching me about the world and about me with every small bit of time we spend together.

    3 years ago

  • FrillRide

    FrillRide says:

    Keep the channels of communication open and always maintain encouragement, interest and support. They will push you away, they have to. To be good friends with your adult child is the sweetest thing.

    3 years ago

  • maclancy

    maclancy says:

    just wait until they go to college. That is when its hardest for a parent to let go and let them grow up. "Don't forget to put that bike light on your bike", "wear a coat", call if you drink too much and need a ride". All of this and more. It never stops. I think its harder for parents sometimes to let go and one way for that to work is for your child to help you let go by being independent. Things seem different now than when I left home at 18. I like what Frill Ride says.. but its the pushing away that stings. Celebrating the milestones is the joy in this dance, and I am sure it keeps getting less like whirling dervish and more like waltz as the years go by. Great post!

    3 years ago

  • jewelrybag

    jewelrybag says:

    I recently became a parent and I found myself unprepared for the enormous change my baby's birth brought about even thought I fancied myself well prepared going into this. What strikes me most is exactly how everything changes - you feel so differently about every aspect of life. In fact, that's exactly the reason I started a blog myself. It's so true that having a child forces you to grow up yourself because your life is suddenly no longer just your own. It's an awesome responsibility that brings with it the most amazing thrills and challenges. Growing up yourself is definitely one of them.

    3 years ago

  • thesleepingdog

    thesleepingdog says:

    we are transformed by the most spectacular and littlest of beings....

    3 years ago

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign says:

    Parenting has taught me that I can only change myself. I very much enjoy your posts Caleb.

    3 years ago

  • ivangovaerts

    ivangovaerts says:

    When you give love in a correct way all comes naturally even when they are adults.

    3 years ago

  • LeesBeesNJ

    LeesBeesNJ says:

    Thanks, Caleb, for being so hopen and honest in your post. I always thought I was a prett smart gal, until my first child was born. Then I realized how little I actually knew! For roughly the first month of his life, I used to drag my son's bassinet into the bathroom when I showered, because I was paralyzed with the fear that something would happen to him if I let my guard down. Children are amazing and wonderful perspective changers. Now that I'm facing the "empty nest" I wish they were all little again!

    3 years ago

  • littleshopofphotos

    littleshopofphotos says:

    I love this. It is so true. I've learned so much about myself and life, since becoming a parent. It is the biggest life changing event and it was a difficult transition. However, I think I'm learning to go with the flow and really focus on the important things in life. Being a parent has taught me not only the true importantances, but to live my life how I feel right, do what makes me happy without worrying about others' opinions, and to really determine what kind if life I want to have with my family. My children are very young, and while it is difficult sometimes, it makes me sad to think about them getting older and leaving! They have changed my life and taught me more than I could have imagined...as any other parent also knows.

    3 years ago

  • newhopebeading

    newhopebeading says:

    One of the sweetest blog posts I have ever read ... thank you for sharing. Sounds like your son is still a little guy. If I may, as a Mom of a 12 year (OY!) and a 9 year old..... enjoy EVERY minute of it. Never wish it away (even when you are sleep deprived and /or they are throwing a tantrum) because you will turn around and they will be all grown and you'll say "When did that happen?" Caroline

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    I've learnt a lot from my Dad but I think deep down we're all kids still trying to find our way in the world and 'grow up'...

    3 years ago

  • zJayne

    zJayne says:

    Great writing and post! So enjoyed and want to send to my son - a magnificent parent! I'm pretty sure I grew up too fast and then when push came to shove in another direction, I was a kid (inner child) all over again. I've learned it's okay to grow up, realize your mistakes and limitations, and enjoy the process. (Mom of 4)

    3 years ago

  • TheEnchantedSlipper

    TheEnchantedSlipper says:

    Amen to that! If I hadn't grown as a person, I wouldn't have been able to care for my three little mischiefs. Thank you for reminding me.

    3 years ago

  • MagpieQuilts

    MagpieQuilts says:

    Having kids is the most wonderful and frustrating experience. Love this post and how it reflects what I've thought for a while - being a parent is the another stage of growing up, when you gain the perspective that this little person is more important than your own wants or needs. Mine are grown and now I am having the pleasure of grandkids, which is a whole other experience!

    3 years ago

  • myAvonlea

    myAvonlea says:

    Your story was so touching. I am going to use some of your quotes on my FB. I absolutely agree: "despite what is happening with our children, they are the ones inviting us to grow up." I am constantly growing with them and feel they're more mature than I in their freedom to love and forgive without a second thought. Thank you for your post. <3 myAvonlea

    3 years ago

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm a mom of a 21 year old daughter and an almost 18 year old son and I can proudly look at them both and feel happy that they have become (and always were) such wonderful human beings.

    3 years ago

  • VedaArts

    VedaArts says:

    absolutely lovely and true! i never realized how much i have grown through the process of worrying about the growing up of my kids!

    3 years ago

  • TastefulThings

    TastefulThings says:

    Candid and great post! Love it and absolutely agree. Communication is crucial when it comes to building relationships!

    3 years ago

  • rickrackshack

    rickrackshack says:

    I really love this series of posts. It really speaks to the whole artist, how we have everyday lives with families. I've had to grow up and learn how to take care of myself. I only knew full tilt, workaholic mode. Nothing is more motivating to break old, bad habits than three beautiful little people who interpret themselves and the world in imitation of you. You learn to do better for them and by so doing, do better for yourself.

    3 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Having children was the most delightful, loving obsession anyone can have!

    3 years ago

  • gnatattack

    gnatattack says:

    I am 28 years old and have understood the concept shown in this post since my teenage years. I just wish my parents could understand it. I am not a parent and I wish to never be one, but for all you parents out there, please understand what Caleb is saying because it is so true and important. If you don't want to give your kid(s) one more complex, then try your hardest to understand and practice what is mentioned in this post.

    3 years ago

  • CraftsbyLittleBeth

    CraftsbyLittleBeth says:

    Great story...I know for myself I have grown up a lot since having my children. My husband and I started out having a family at a young age, but it is an amazing feeling. I know we both have grown up and it was because our children needed us to in order to provide a wonderful home for them. We are now experiencing teenage years with our children. Currently they are depending on us less and we are learning new things all the time. Wonderful story and responses.

    3 years ago

  • tiemee

    tiemee says:

    I find myself "growing up" everyday. Play is her primary occupation right now--I am helping her embrace it while attempting to balance the demands on my side.

    3 years ago

  • overDAcrib

    overDAcrib says:

    On point! I think there are different variations of "growing up," selflessness" goes hand in hand with child rearing... or at least should be. Very nice piece.

    3 years ago

  • chiquiita

    chiquiita says:

    After becoming parents, nothing was more important for us than our girl. We feel better persons today because of her. Nobody says that being a parent is easy but with lots of love, commitment, dedication and patience--parenting is easier and enjoyable.

    3 years ago

  • girliepains

    girliepains says:

    Gorgeous read.

    3 years ago

  • RDArtrip

    RDArtrip says:

    In what ways have you had to grow up? Are you honest with yourself about how hard it’s been? I didn't realize I was living a robotic life till my mid-late 20's. Something just hit me like an awakening. I thought I was doing everything I was suppose to in life especially for my kids. I had to put less stock into what I seen in the world around me and base my parenting on what my kids personalities clued me into what was truely needed. It was hard for me to abandon my ideas. I may be in charge of certain responsibilities for being the parent, my children are still humans with feelings, emotions, frustrations, and learning everyday. I give them the space to be who they are and love them even when they make poor decisions. The poor decisions are what is going to help them learn. Just because I instruct them on what is right, doesn't take away their right to get it wrong. Some things in life have to be experienced this way. Over all both my kids are awesome. They are both making good grades, involved in activities that promote their caring nature, they know their bodies for when to rest, they have great sense of humor even in down times, and most important home is a safe place where they are truely loved. I admire them so! Parenthood- the most diverse and rewarding job anyone could ever have. Kudos to all of you that appritiate the gift of parenthood.

    3 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    I have always said that parenthood will bring you closer to God. They are just little angels...

    3 years ago

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes says:

    I love my little one so much..I learned to be patient and to listen. Though I do talk too much and say silly things to make her laugh all the time...I dont even want to think about her leaving for College..Aghhh. She is only 6 and time feels as if it is going to fast already.

    3 years ago

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino says:

    There's something wonderful about being responsible for someone else, it creates a feeling that you're needed and wanted. Many people don't seem to realize that being a parent is the most important job in the world.

    3 years ago

  • newlindebra

    newlindebra says:

    I LOVE this! So very true! I have two grown sons. Letting go was not without pain but I knew that it had to be done, anything else would be unhealthy for us all. I am blessed to see the men,fathers and husbands they have become. I am also blessed to say we are truly friends. To everything there is a season.

    3 years ago

  • Bumbleweedz

    Bumbleweedz says:

    well said.

    3 years ago

  • junctionoffunction

    junctionoffunction says:

    "despite what is happening with our children, they are the ones inviting us to grow up." I totally agree with this statement. Having kids teaches us to be more responsible adults since everything isn't about us anymore but them as well. Great read!

    3 years ago

  • artsinwonderland

    artsinwonderland says:

    This was beautiful. Thank you for writing and sharing this. Joe

    3 years ago

  • OpusMuse

    Nicole from OpusMuse says:

    Thank you for sharing this article. You took the words right out of my mouth. I've always thought to myself, we go to school to learn about everything but yet we weren't taught how to be a parent, there's no school to go to, no one teaches you how to become one. And so we become a parent by way of observation and how we were brought up or go the exact opposite for some. It's an ongoing learning process and sometimes steep learning curve. I congratulate you on embrace parenthood like you do and think of it as a process of growing up along with your child.

    3 years ago