I am a mere five years away from launching my firstborn into the real world and am just over a decade from becoming an empty-nester -- my youngest of the five is 6-years-old. There is no official term for this phase of parenting, no cute label; I'm smack-dab in the middle -- in no-man's land.
I am the Transition Parent.
My stint with diapers, pacifiers, and leaky breasts is ancient history. No more waking up startled in the middle of night by sleepwalkers, bed-wetters, or to the shocking thump of bodies rolling off beds and hitting the floor. Back then, uninterrupted sleep was some ethereal notion I could hardly conceptualize and never accomplish. And leaving the house as a family called for the Mt. Everest of packing. I remember trying to stay out all day to justify the need to schlep so much crap.
Today, my kids all feed, dress, and bathe themselves. They tackle homework assignments on their own initiative and reach out to friends when they want to hang out. They are opinionated, incredibly observant, and debate like crafty litigators. No longer easily fooled, they've figured out that their parents really don't know everything and are indeed winging it most of the time.
As the Transition Parent, I can barely keep up with their ever-changing needs, insights, and bodies. I often catch myself feeling nostalgic, mourning the loss of their childhood bliss. My eldest two are 13- and 11-year-old girls. I find myself frenetically learning on-the-fly to navigate the murky waters of adolescence where the prevailing parenting wisdom that got me and my fellow Gen Xers through isn't an option in today's unstable, digital world.
And yet still, in utter defiance of their inevitable maturation, I continue to belt out my quirky good-morning tunes, squeeze their supple cheeks, and break out the faded plastic Superhero plates they once fought over in an attempt to reel them back in and kind of test them -- to see if they're still into it. I still gently encourage my eldest girls to play with their beloved Barbies, reminding them they have their whole lives to be adults with adult worries.
And even though I no longer have a young mother's energy to get by on no sleep, coffee and granola bars, part of me wants them to stay little and dependent and reconsider growing up -- or consider slowing it down a bit. Paradoxically, on the other hand, I feel compelled to inundate them with tools and information that'll best equip them to deal with real world adult challenges.
As the Transition Parent, I straddle two worlds, and have my head stuck somewhere in between.
The Transition Parent is torn.
Nonetheless, despite my own inner struggles, when I peer down on my life, I realize how precious and fleeting it all is -- how everything's just a phase, everything is impermanent. I realize that none of it is worth stressing out over, over-analyzing, or taking too seriously. Time somehow has a way to march our kids out of toddler-hood allergies, asthma, or an intolerable stage of adolescence. Whatever it is, these creatures are entrusted to us for such a short stint of time. And as Transition Parents, it's in our very best interest to somehow find a way to pause, soak it all in, and put down our smart phones.
Now is our chance to seize the moment, while they're still under our roof, and simply enjoy our children.