Just as a rose can't live without rain, so too a heart can't love without the risk of pain ~ Author Unknown
I came to a scary realisation this week. Well this is not essentially true, because I guess it's something I've always known. Quite simply I realised, that as a mother (or even a father) you never quite stop worrying about your children, even when they eventually fly the nest. The truth is that as they get older, the worrying intensifies and it's because you no longer have total control.
Sure you still worry about similar things, but the control levels change. Consider for a moment the differences between being the mother of a toddler and being the mother of a teenager / young adult:
The food they eat.
Toddler - you can decide what they eat and when (to some extent). You can also largely influence their choices (so what if they only want to eat lasagne for every meal? You know that it won't last forever and besides, it's really not that bad because they'll never know that you've pureed at least 5 different vegetables and added them to the lasagne sauce. If all else fails, as a last resort, you can always slip them one of those orange flavoured chewable multi vitamins)
Teenager / Young Adult - they eat what they want, when they want and sometimes not at all (this is despite your best intentions. They are now wise to the pureed vegetables in the lasagne sauce because they tell you they can taste it, and quite often multi vitamins are no longer a consideration)
The friends they associate with.
Toddler - you have total control of who, how and when (it doesn't matter if nasty little Jimmy from down the street is a bad influence, you can simply monitor the time they spend together, or stop it altogether)
Teenager / Young Adult - they decide who they associate with and when (even if you don't approve and despite all of your best advice. Besides, the more you disapprove of a friend the more inclined they are to see them - so you quickly learn to keep your disapproval to your self - most of the time anyway)
Toddler - it's often a battle, but eventually you will get them to go to sleep; sometimes it's in their own beds (or in the cubby house, or in your bed or next to it) but they will always sleep in their own home where you can watch over and protect them.
Teenager / Young Adult - a set bed time becomes non existent and more often than not they want to stay somewhere else (where the rules are often quite different and you can't protect them).
When they're sick.
Toddler - you get to decide when to take them to the doctor. You can also cuddle and care for them until they get better.
Teenager / Young Adult - it will be a battle to get them to the doctor and it's unheard of that you would be able to cuddle them or fuss over them. If they do let you cuddle and fuss, then it's because they're really sick and this worries you more.
Advice on life choices
Toddler - you are seen as the expert on everything and if even if they don't want to listen to you, you can put them in their rooms and shut the door, they'll soon listen.
Teenager / Young Adult - as a parent they tell you that you know nothing because you're old and out of touch with life or they'll listen to your advice and will still make their own decisions (even if they're the wrong decisions, in which case you will have to be there to help them to overcome the results of the bad decisions)
I used to think that being the mother of a toddler was the most demanding, scary and worrying experience of my life. Admittedly it was also one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable experiences as well.
Now that I'm the mother of teenagers and young adults I find that it's more demanding, definitely scarier and twice as worrying. It's true that this age group also has the benefit of being exhilarating and enjoyable, but so are roller coaster rides and they scare the bejeesus out of me just as much.
Ultimately it comes down to one thing - I hate not being in control and not being in control means that I worry more. I know that being a parent lasts a lifetime and no matter who your children are and what they become, the worrying never stops.
So my ephiphany for this week. My children are my world, and I am destined to spend every minute, of every day, for the rest of my life, loving them and worrying about them (even when they turn around and say mum stop worrying, I'm fine). It's a mother's perogative after all.