Bittersweet Milestones
motherhood, Parenting

Bittersweet Milestones

As a mother, our job is to prepare our children for life without us, and although we know that this is our job, every milestone is bittersweet! As I sit and type this, I find myself reeling with the emotions I am forcing myself to feel and deal with.

For the past week or so I have not had any inspiration to actually write. Then I read a post by a fellow South African blogger, Venean from In the Meantime where she was both celebrating and sad about the fact that her son is self-weaning and it got me all emotional and inspired at the same time. It definitely touched something in my soul that made me rush home and start typing.My eldest is currently enjoying her last day of pre-school, and I am not ready! Next year she will be in Grade 1 – GRADE ONE!! When did this happen? I am so proud of her, and also so sad at the same time. As Venean said, I have both longed for this moment and now that it is here I don’t feel ready.

It made me think back to the last day of my pregnancy before I brought her into this world! I was so excited to meet her, and then when the moment arrived I was terrified for so many reasons, too many to go into now, that’s a post for another day.

This week I have used my ‘free’ mornings to do as much shopping and preparation for her new start in January as I can, because I really can’t bear shopping with the girls in tow. School uniforms are bought, stationery is bought, fees are budgeted for. All that’s left is her school shoes and book bag. I’ve gone through this whole process without feeling anything other than a sense of ‘just get it done, then I don’t have to stress about it’.

I realise now that my practical, “get it done” side had kicked in as an emotional coping mechanism so I didn’t have to deal with the fact that she is growing up, so fast, too fast, and that block of my emotions, also blocked any desire to write, be creative and put my feelings out there.

I’m not going to sit here and write about how I wish my girls would stop growing, because that’s just not true. I’m not that mom. If you’ve read some of my posts you will know that I have really struggled over the past few years. When they were babies I coped fine, they ate, they slept, they were ‘good’ babies. The hard work only really started when they could walk and I feel like I’ve been on the run ever since. Both were walking by the time they were 10 months old!

With every phase in their lives comes a new hurdle that we have to get over and sometimes it feels like we’re on a treadmill, we just have to keep going, keep running this marathon race of parenting.

That said, I am really loving where we are right now. My six-year-old daughter is really maturing, really growing up and really just an awesome human being who is far better at processing her emotions and verbalising her needs than she used to be, which in turn helps me too. My four-year-old daughter is this determined little fireball who keeps me on my toes, and can always be relied upon to brighten anyone’s day! She is definitely one to watch!

I don’t want to wish their lives away, but I challenge any parent to deny that they are happy the day they no longer have to change a pooh nappy, or wipe a bum, or have a fight at bath time. We all love those milestones! With that said, as our children grow and with every milestone in their lives, comes a small piece of heartbreak for their mama.

One of the biggest growth milestones I had to deal with recently is that my daughters have both managed to open the car doors from the outside by themselves, and to close the door from the inside without my help. I drive a high-rise SUV style vehicle so this requires a certain amount of expertise and effort from them as the door handle is probably higher than my four-year old is tall!

The first day they both achieved this, I had a huge range of emotions running through me, all in the space of about a minute, the minute it took me to walk around to the driver’s side of the car, get in, realise what this meant, push that emotion aside and congratulate them on their achievement – they were both grinning and so proud of themselves! I was happy for them, yet I felt like a small piece of my mama-heart had crumbled away and I had a literal feeling of heartache!

Why? Why did I feel like that? The truth, because this meant that I was no longer needed. They no longer needed me to help them open the car door, get themselves in their car seats, buckle themselves in with their seat belts, or close the door for them. The moment I had longed for had arrived, and I was not ready!

I was at once free, and unnecessary; proud and hurt; happy and sad.

They did not need me for this anymore.

Here are a few more examples of where I am not needed anymore:

  • They are both capable of making their own sandwich now.
  • They can both swim now, although I still watch them like a hawk.
  • They can both use the toilet correctly without me now.
  • They can brush their teeth, properly.
  • They can bath themselves, including running the bath water (Although I do scrub them down thoroughly every other day!)
  • They can both dress themselves properly now – not always appropriately, but dressed!
  • They can pour their own juice (I do have to make sure it’s the right ratio of juice to water, but that’s more because I will still be responsible for dentist bills for some time to come!)

There are more … but I’m tearing up a little here as I count all the ways I’m no longer needed.

I’m a very proud mommy. My girls are both growing into the best version of themselves I have always prayed for. I recognise that I can take some credit for that.

But that doesn’t mean we are every ready for it. Ready to be not needed anymore.

Just a reminder to us parents – one day they will be gone, and you’ll know you did your job right. It’s important not to lose yourself along the way, or your partner, because the day the kids are gone you will turn around and it will just be the two of you again. You will be older, you will be scarred, you will be a different version of you compared to when you started this parenting journey, but take care of each other along the way, because at the end, I suspect, whilst you will finally be ‘free’, you still won’t be ready.

A Mother's job is to teach her children not to need her anymore



21 thoughts on “Bittersweet Milestones”

  1. Damn, I’ve been thinking about similar things this week, my child’s milestones, especially after a video I saw of a mom telling kids to slow down, slow down on this growth. It’s amazing to see them grow yet nostalgic. The buckle of the seat belts you mentioned here gets to me, it’s such a small thing, yet big. Xoxo

  2. This post is poetic. Nicely done and so true. I try to enjoy all the moments of parenting, good and bad, even though some of those moments can be completely exhausting. I feel like with every stage and age there’s a pro and con. It’s hard to see them get older and more mature but it’s also so beautiful to watch them grow too. I know I will be so sad next year when my daughter starts VPK but so happy too. If only we had that option to go back and visit some of the precious moments we have with our children, now that would be super sweet. I’m wondering if you’ve ever watched the movie About Time. It’s such a sweet movie with an incredible story line. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad you found something inspiring to write about.

      1. I absolutely agree. It is so nice when people drop a comment on something I have taken time to write so I always try to do that for others. It does feel SO good. VPK stands for Voluntary Pre Kindergarten.

  3. So beautifully said, when I myself have to deal with this – I’ve scheduled meltdown I will be back to read it all over again. Hugs and congratulations at getting her to this next step. Its an achievement to both of you xx

  4. You’ve got me feeling ALL the feelings with this post!! What you wrote about the car door + getting in + the car seat… I went through the same emotions, and it still shakes me that these are things she doesn’t need me for anymore. When did that happen?? 😯 xx

  5. Such a beautiful post! Thinking about my two little girls who are 1 and 4 yrs. What is most touching for me is how their bond is forming. And how my 4 year old is getting so smart and becoming a ‘kid’ and not a toddler any more! Its like she was 2 years old just now! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jo Carly…. I just took a drive down memory lane here. I walked past the nappies this week and realized for the first time I have gone an entire month without buying any – in 7 years. Beautiful piece ❤️

  7. Oh man I can relate. Loved the freedom, with Dudie, of no longer carrying a nappy bag or a chnage of clothes but now I’m back in that routine with Troll. I find that I’m savouring these “baby” moments with Troll as I know that he is my last baby. But I’m excited to see him grow and develop into his own person at the same time.

    With Dudie going to Grade 3, I’m still accepting the thought that my eldest will be a senior in Foundation Phase. How even? Time flies…

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