The Boundary Between You and Your Child
My 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the other mothers look over at us, my son with the headphones on, texting his friends, and me flipping through a really outdated magazine, the only one not parenting related, and I know that they are thinking that it gets easier.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.Published October 28, 2010. Last updated June 25, 2018.