The End of the Toothpaste Tube of Childhood

My teens have reached an interesting limbo of adolescence. They are past fighting over who is touching who in the car, school doesn’t define or consume them, and full-time work and adult relationships remain in the foggy future.

So the hands-on, physically exhausting part of child-rearing is over, and the emotional, financial, intellectually stimulating portion is underway. Their childhood is ending, and I’m not sad. I like our conversations and interactions. Well, not all of them; telling your kid to pick up her stinky, sweaty athletic gear and do her homework or chores gets old fast. But I love discussing their friends, movies, sports, and classes. It’s nice that they still want to share, complain, and bounce ideas off me and their dad.

And just when I think they don’t need me anymore, there’s driving practice, daily chauffeuring, parental attention, and emotional support. I still scold and judge and explain, and hug and kiss and hold. They even listen to some of my suggestions and observations about their life, most recently: “Slow down when you speak so your message will be heard and remembered” or “Want to go to a job fair and talk to people about different kinds of work?”

photo by Kelvin Lau

They know what mom or dad would say. But as the girls rely on us less, they also sense their dependent, idyllic stage ending and hold tightly to their mommy time. Thing 1 still wants mommy-crafted green drinks twice a day. Thing 2 continues to enjoy hair-stroking, lots of kisses and hugs before bed, and snuggling tightly against my side on the couch.

I can’t wait to see their important choices:

  • What work will they pursue?
  • Who will they marry?
  • What kind of parents will they be?
  • What will my grandkids be like?

Marinating in the present, enjoying the last minty bits of childhood, is good too. I see them every day and continue as their consistent anchor and authority figure. I get to be their most important person.

When it all changes, these days will be like the savory taste memory of Grandma’s special cookies. Childhood and time only flow one way.

…Thank God!

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