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The Boundary Between You and Your Child

By Chris Jordan

dr-officeMy nearly man-sized child is sitting with me in the pediatrician’s office awaiting his physical. I look around at the harried new moms with the tiny babies strapped into carseats, the screaming toddlers jumping off of the wee chairs and the waiting room strewn with toys. Soon I won’t be bringing my son here anymore. Soon I won’t even be responsible for bringing him anywhere. He is almost fully grown. I see the other mothers look over at us, my son with the headphones on, texting his friends, and me flipping through a really outdated magazine, the only one not parenting related, and I know that they are thinking that it gets easier.

And it does.
But it doesn’t.

To them my child seems impossibly large and grown. They cannot imagine their baby ever being this size. They don’t yet how fast it happens.

When your children are small they cling to you. Their arms wrap around your neck and squeeze. Their sweaty little fists grab you hair. They demand your attention– one more story, one more song, one more bounce upon your knee.

What no one tells you while you are longing for some space, some boundary that defines the space between them and you, is that one day they will want more space from you than you want from them. The roles will reverse. You will be the needy one in the relationship, wanting more time, more talking, more interaction with them.

Tell me about your day at school.
What did you do with your friends?
Want to sing the Barney clean-up song while we tackle that hovel you call a bedroom?
Hey, where are you going

You’ll miss the days when they would come home from school and tell you everything that went on in painstakingly minute detail that took as long to relate as it did to live it.

She said… and then he said… and then she said…and then my teacher did…

You want to know more. But it is their life and they dole out the information sparingly. You will savor these small extracted nuggets. Your children will have a life that exists mostly apart from you. Sometimes you will feel as though they are pushing you away with the same desperation you used to feel when prying their toddler arms from around your leg.

And one day you find yourself sitting less than a foot away from your child, wanting to reach out and rub his hair, but you don’t. That would not be cool, Mom. You find that you are still navigating the boundaries that separate you. Instead you text him. And he will laugh and text you back.

It’s easier, yes. But bittersweet.

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Beth

    October 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Oh my goodness, that post really says it all. As a mom to 6 kids, from 20 to 11, I still have the somewhat younger kid issues (wash your hands, zip your pants, where’s my kiss), and those awkward, older ‘kid” exchanges (be careful, who are you seeing, be careful!) It’s wonderful to see them grow, be independant, make big-life decisions, as well as terrifying to see all of the same. But, as my wise mom said, you don’t want them to live with them forever, do you? They have to grow up!

  • Christy

    October 28, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    It scares me to think how fast it all goes.  My son is almost 18 months, and I am feeling the toddler attention ALL the time.  However, I can’t imagine not being the center of his universe.  Makes me sad to think about it.

  • Jillian

    October 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I have two very small, mommy-focused boys. I remind myself frequently that I’ll spend more time on the side you describe than the one I’m on now.

  • Maureen

    October 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

    You are so right! Time goes way too quickly. I love your writing. I love your blog and your essays here. You have made me laugh and have made me cry. You are my favorite blog to read. Thank you!

  • suzie

    November 1, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I was up until 12:20 a.m. yesterday, because my 14 yo didn’t want me to leave her bed after “tucking her in.”  She often just waves from the door “goodnight,” instead of the old ritual.  But last night, I had one of those rare treats, and couldn’t pass it up.  

    For the most part, I am very content with the changes that have come with my girls getting older.  But I would like to freeze it HERE.  With them under my roof, and their friends coming in and out, and me watching their growth and maturity.  Every now and then I remember the next step, and then I think about something else, instead.

  • Kaela

    November 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I’m reading this while my sweet little boy nurses and you just reminded me to savor every moment of it. I was feeling sorry for myself since I’m sick and wish I were asleep, but now I’m happily watching his pudgy little hands hold my shirt – so thanks!

  • sarah

    November 2, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I will not be prying my 17 month old off my leg tomorrow, I’m going to pick him up and hug him every time instead. I think I may sneak in his room and watch him sleep.I know they grow up way too fast, and lately I’ve been thinking of “another” baby. But I still have a little bit of baby left and I sure won’t overlook or rush it! Thanks for the reminder! <3

  • Tina

    November 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

    That is what I keep trying to remind myself when I wait with my son for the bus–the stop is right in front of our house and I probably don’t HAVE to, but soon he won’t want me to, so enjoy it while I can! And while I sit and listen to him read out loud to me the only way a early reader can–someday he won’t need this or want this, enjoy it while I can! Another good reminder though, thank you!

  • Shannon

    November 9, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I read this, of course, with my toddler clinging to my legs with a book in his hands that he wanted me to read to him for the millionth time. Much of my computer time is spent with my eyes on the screen and my hands flipping pages of books I recite to him by heart. Just now I turned away from the computer, picked him and sat him in my lap to read. Thanks for the reminder of how fast it goes. I *know* this and yet somehow I still yearn for time with no toddler clinging to my legs. I know I am going to be so sad when the hugs and kisses become infrequent.

  • Toni

    November 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I sit and read this as my eyes fill with tears. My oldest now 23 got married on September 18, my 2nd child is set to be married on December 14 and my 3rd child is on an LDS mission for 2 years can you say WHAT THE H…

  • Sarah

    November 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Oooh, this made me tear up. My oldest is only 9 but I still feel that pull away from me. He stopped telling me things about his day over a year ago and I find myself so frustrated because surely we’re not there yet! I long for the days when he would want to talk incessantly about stuff and it makes me so sad to think it’s going to get worse and he’s going to get further away still. Wonderful and yet awful post. Time really does go way too fast.

  • Bean Counter

    November 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Geez, why did this make my cry? My oldest is 7 hours away at college and Thanksgiving break can not come fast enough. My youngest is sitting here annoying me but maybe it is not so annoying afterall. He just wants to read one more book before bed. He is only eight but he will be gone soon enough like his older brother.

  • maria

    November 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    wow – my kids are 6, 9 and 11 and I am starting to see this with the 11 year old – although he goes back and forth. I am so anxious for my own space from the clingy ones – but trying to stay close to the one growing away (as he should to a certain extent…) Thanks for the perspective reminder!

  • Mia

    November 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    I text my 14yo daily… a joke, a photo of something cool, a random word just to make him reply – in memory of 3yo him yelling MOM, MOM, MOM, MOM just to see if I was still there whenever he went to the bathroom or to bed. We have to touch their hearts in what ever way we can until we are cemented into them like math facts. I miss the – oh, the EVERYTHING about the boundaryless years.