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18 years as a parent did not prepare me for this

I used to hate it when people told me to enjoy every minute of my children’s infancy and toddlerhood. They said that time flies and before I knew it, that baby I was holding would be out in the world as an adult.  

I would think to myself: Do they even KNOW about the constant stickiness of kids? The poop blow outs? The sleepless nights? Do they remember struggling to be mobile with car seats and diaper bags and bottles?  

And yet, here I am, saying the same thing to parents of younger kids… Time flies. Enjoy every moment. 

I’m sure they hate when I say it, too. 

Life has a funny way of coming full circle.  

As a parent, the concept of time is weird. 

It feels like yesterday that I was sitting in that backseat of the car bringing my son home from the hospital but now… my baby is an adult.  

That day in 2004, time stood still. He was so small and the car ride home was one of the slowest, longest, most anxiety-stricken five-mile drives, ever. The idea of him turning 18 and graduating high school wasn’t on my radar. With constant round-the-clock child care, who had time to think about that? 

Not me, that’s for sure. I thought I would have plenty of time to prepare emotionally for the day my kids turned 18. I mean, 18 YEARS. That’s a long time.  

I was wrong. 

Time moved forward and the baby to child milestones whizzed by. Diapers turned into potty training turned into school-bound.  

I blinked and my kids were in middle school.  

I blinked again and they’re in high school.  

My dad was right – the older we get, the faster time seems to pass.  

I knew this day was coming. I thought I had prepared myself.  

But what I’ve discovered throughout life is that even when I feel prepared for something, I’m still not prepared.  

It’s not like my son will be moving out of the house and venturing into the world tomorrow, but the dynamic has changed.  

I wonder if he is ready to take on adult responsibilities. Is he ready to live on his own? Will he only eat ramen noodles?  

Did I do enough to teach him real-life skills? 

I hope he keeps being curious about learning random facts. That he reaches out for help when he needs it.  

The one thing I’m resting into for peace is that we are still a bit away from his leaving home. When he does spread his wings, I’ll still be his mom. He will still be my “baby” and I’ll be here to guide him through the roller coaster called life.  

In spite of how much I really hated the suggestion to relish every moment,  I now see what those other parents meant. 

Time really is fleeting. Especially in the throws of daily parenting.  

I offer these sentiments, as I reflect over the past 18 years: 

  • Relish every moment (even the hard ones) and take loads of pictures. Time passes quicker than we realize. 
  • Let your kids get dirty. Stuff can be cleaned but memories last forever.  
  • Let them mess up and make mistakes. It’s hard to watch, but that’s how we learn.  

Hug your kiddos a little closer. Cuddle with your lil guy instead of vacuuming. Listen to the same joke over and over.  

Know that it’s ok to feel frustrated as a parent. To feel defeated some days. To think that this will never end. 

But also know that time has a funny way of sneaking up on us.  

The biggest wish I have for my now adult son is that he lives authentically. That he lives a life he is happy with. That he feels connected, loved, and cherished. That he knows he will always be my “baby,” no matter how old he gets. And that he knows how proud I am of him.  

 

 

Beth Montgomery
Beth Montgomery is a single mom of teens and is a Jill of all trades who lives in the Harrisburg area. While she wasn't born anywhere near here (or even in this country), she calls Central PA home (for now) and writes about her journeys through adulting... with kids. Visit her online at www.singleparentproject.com or connect with her on the socials.

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