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?
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.