A friend with kids slightly older than my own informs me on every birthday: “Well, you’re out of the woods now”-the woods being the high-intensity parenting required when your children are little and need you to do everything for them from wiping their bums to cutting up their meals. I laugh and remind him he said the same thing the year before.
When exactly will the trees part and the endless fields of parental freedom open up? According to my mother, never. Not that my brother and I cause her much grief, but her children are, even now, top of mind. Funny for a woman who made it very clear when I was younger that, while she loved us, she had her own needs.
It’s a posture I grudgingly admired. And I’ve found myself reprising her attitude as my own boys, 13 and eight, grow older. I want them to know that as they redraw the boundaries of their lives-with more independence, new interests, friends-I’m doing the same.
I visualize it as a space opening up inside my brain. An area once jammed with arcane data on strollers, diapers, the Ferber method and French immersion now has room for my own writing, reading, thinking. It’s thrilling but also bittersweet. As those woods recede, I miss them.