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Tangled Apron Strings

I am facing a typical parenting dilemma: How to let go and allow your kids to grow up.

Ray and I are the parents of six wonderful, typical kids. We have actually “cut the apron strings” (or, more accurately, “untied” them) twice already, and prepare to do it again.

Our oldest daughter (child #3) graduates from high school this week.

I am in a quandry because my emotions are all over the place. I am excited and sad and proud and melancholy and enthusiastic and wistful.

In some ways, this time is harder than when my sons went to college. Our oldest son attended college about 8 hours away from where we used to live, before our move last summer. He attended two years before serving his mission. [Side note: He is approaching his 11 month milestone. Can you believe it?!] Our second son attends college in the town in which we currently live, so even though he lives in the dorms he is still close. He just had a birthday, and my heart is still trying to handle the tide of time that has moved him from my near-preemie little baby to the young man he is today. My daughter will be attending college about 2 hours away. She is more of a heart-to-heart talker than my sons are, and I am going to miss our talks tremendously. And it is, of course, our current immediate situation. We’ve had a few years to assimilate to our sons being out of the house.

Thus, in many ways, this seems a familiar – though still uncomfortable – place to be. I guess it really doesn’t get any easier the more times you have this experience. Each child has his / her own personality and place in our family dynamic, and the life changes that affect that dynamic are sure to be felt.

I keep reminding myself that untangling the apron strings is a process. It takes time and patience to learn to let go and allow my kids to become the adults they can and want to be. (Which is truly what I want for them, as well.) I tell myself to remember the lessons I have learned over the past four years as my children have embarked on adulthood, expressed in my post Feelings of a Tender Parent just over a year ago.

I guess you can count me as one tender parent who wouldn’t have it any other way. Give me the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears, of raising children – even when it includes learning to untangle my heart and let my children soar into their futures.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Alison Moore Smith May 20, 2010, 9:21 am

    Michelle, I feel your pain. With two in college and a third just about to enter her senior year, it seems like the years just rush by. I’m definitely not one who looks forward to an empty house with the kids all on their own.

  • Michelle D May 24, 2010, 8:50 am

    Thanks, Alison!

    Parenting in general is a mixed bag (pros and cons), but learning how to navigate the emotional minefields as your kids go through life stages is a process not for the faint-hearted…

  • partone June 5, 2010, 5:52 pm

    Michelle, it has been so busy with school ending that I haven’t been around for a while. Just read this article you wrote. You always just hit me. Kids getting older is a bittersweet topic, isn’t it?


  • Michelle D June 10, 2010, 7:13 pm

    Partone, thanks for your comment. Recently returned today from college orientation for #3. This was a good day to read about someone who can sympathize with the bittersweet emotions of kids getting older!

  • Alison Moore Smith June 11, 2010, 12:37 am

    How did it go, Michelle?

    When I finally got into college I was thrilled and dove right in. Didn’t occur to me that it would be hard for my MOM, even though I was the baby.

    Michelle, you might like this poem. I found it among my mother’s things after she died.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 11, 2010, 12:41 am

    Hah! And while looking for that poem, I found this sad mommy post. I really do feel for you!

  • Michelle D June 12, 2010, 12:09 am

    Alison, that poem is fantastic!! Thanks for sharing it. And I sympathize with the sad mommy post, as well.

    Orientation went really well. It was well-planned, well-organized, and well-executed. We have experienced three different orientations at three different colleges for three different kids. Pros and cons to all of them, but our kids have gone where they really needed to be. It is neat to see their growth. But it’s hard to untangle my heartstrings!

    Yeah, when I went to college and got married and moved away from home, it was all a grand adventure. Never really thought much about how hard it all must have been for my mom and dad!!

  • Tink123 June 16, 2010, 4:07 pm

    Just saw this post and had to smile because it brought back memories. I had a harder time seeing my kids go off to college than going on missions. HS Graduation was fun because they were all so excited for it but I still shed a few tears. It seems like each summer following graduation was a “distancing” period for them. They were busy with friends and work and we hardly saw them. Even on Sundays it seemed like they were dashing off to go to a friends farewell or homecoming. I guess what made it easier for me was remembering that this was my goal in life. To see them grow up, be responsible, be mature, be self-sufficient, and go to college/on a mission. It would be selfish to wish they had no friends, no interests, and no goals. I say give yourself a pat on the back and just keep telling yourself “I’m an awsome Mom!” 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith June 16, 2010, 6:33 pm

    Tink123, so good to hear from you. What great insights from another “experienced mom.” 🙂 Your advice to Michelle is great. I’ll be taking it, too!

    Just to note, the site is being redesigned as soon as I can get the database access set up for the programmer. So if you come back and we’re not here, don’t be alarmed. We’ll be back!

  • Michelle D June 18, 2010, 10:24 am

    Thanks, Tink123! (especially for the reminder that the summer between graduation and college is a distancing time.)

    I keep telling myself that having our kids become happy, competent, successful adults has been our goal all along. It works most days… Some days are harder than others, especially when younger siblings complain that our just-graduated daughter spends most of her time with her friends instead of with her family. They aren’t going to see her much when she goes off to college, either. That hasn’t fully sunk in yet for her. One of those lessons our kids need to learn for themselves…

    At any rate, it’s an exciting time and I’m proud of my kids!

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