The Bittersweetness of Growing Up

The one thing that we can always count on as a mother is change. Whether you are talking about a toddler who yesterday wanted their toast cut into rectangles but today only eats triangle toast. A child that fit in size 5 pants two weeks ago, but now has two inches of ankle sticking out. Or a child that cried every day when you dropped them off for kindergarten, but now wants you to drop them off a block away from the middle school so that no one sees you. Kids change. It is our job to prepare them for those changes and guide them through the change as best as we can. As we are busy helping them, we can sometimes overlook how difficult those changes can be for us as parents.

This summer has hit me hard in that way. Between March and the end of June, my oldest daughter turned 18, graduated from high school and moved almost 550 miles away for a gap year and then college. When my husband and I moved to Atlanta, my daughter went to live with her father, and I went from being her main caregiver to seeing her approximately five times a year. While that changed when we moved back to the Pittsburgh area, it still feels like she grew up overnight, and without me. I know that she is starting a new, exciting chapter in her life, one that has so much possibility and opportunity. I know that the area she has chosen is perfect for her in terms of having her aunt there for support, and endless opportunities to meet like-minded people her age, as well as people to guide her both educationally and professionally. Yet, I still mourn the loss of that little girl that first made me a mom.

My stepdaughter, who came to live with my husband and me just before her fourth birthday, is now 16. In middle school, she began to struggle with some mental health issues and her Autism and began attending a program at a school more equipped to help her. This spring, she completed the program, and this fall will return to public school for her final two years of high school. She has also gotten her first job this summer.

My two youngest’s milestones have not been as life-changing as their big sisters’, but they have definitely proven to me that I no longer have any babies in my house. My oldest son is going into second grade. He now rides a bike, ties his own shoes, is learning to swim, and reads chapter books. His “baby” brother, finished kindergarten, can read on his own, has lost all his front teeth and is working on riding a bike.

 Like with so many parts of parenting, sitting back and looking at my children as they change and grow, fills me with both pride and a bit of sadness. While I miss the warm baby snuggles, and the sound of little feet pitter pattering around my house, I remain in awe of my children, their strength, resourcefulness, excitement about life, intelligence, and talents. It is difficult raising good humans and the line between holding on and letting go is often unclear. Even the best parents don’t always get it right, and the most confusing part is the idea that sometimes, in order to keep them close, we must let them go. Provided that I have done my job well, my children will need me a little less each year. Perhaps I will find new hobbies, volunteer more, travel some, or maybe get a new puppy. (If my husband reads this, I’m kidding about the puppy, sort of.) I’ll miss having babies, but I look forward to what is yet to come for my entire family. 

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Lauren Eber
Lauren is originally from the Laurel Highlands area in Westmoreland County. However, she lived in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia before returning to South Western Pennsylvania after having her two youngest children to be closer to family. She and her husband have a blended family, each have a teen daughter from previous relationships, and at the ages of 39 and 40, they added two boys to their family. Lauren shares custody of her daughter, with her daughter’s father, who lives in West Virginia, while she, her husband, stepdaughter, the two elementry school age boys, and their three legged rescue dog now live in Mount Lebanon. In addition to being a mom, Lauren works full-time as an interior designer at a local kitchen and bath design center. She also enjoys reading, crafts, drawing, spending time in the mountains, writing, photography, watching the Penguins play, and eating vegetarian wings at The Double Wide Grill. She loves connecting with other moms and feels it is essential for moms to have a community of other women who support and encourage them on their parenting journey.