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Michelle Hamel considers the surprising ways mothers grow—and the ways in which we must grow smaller—as our children grow up.

One thing that I haven't yet managed to do in all my years of mothering is to slow down time to keep my kids from growing up so fast. With eight kids, I had lots of opportunities to try and figure out how to slow the growing process, but I have failed again and again. In fact, my youngest seems to be on fast forward in her journey to follow in her siblings' (large) footsteps! 

I've been a mom for more than thirty years, and I have NO idea how that went by so quickly! I'm still so surprised at how the first few years seem like they will last forever and then you blink and your child is a teenager! One moment you're carrying them around on your hip everywhere and before you know it they walk out of their room one morning taller than you! How does that even happen?!? (If you have the answer, please leave it in the comments. I've only got one more at home who is shorter than me and she measures herself against me every week, seemingly getting closer and closer each time!) 

There's a lot of stretching and growing that happens ... and I'm not just talking about the kids. As moms, we have to do a lot of stretching and growing as our kids change and become more independent. After being completely reliant on us for their survival for lots of years, the pushing away to become their own person can be challenging for moms. Change doesn't always feel good, even when it is good. 




I remember the first time my youngest son, Luke, just gave me a head nod instead of a hug leaving a school Mass with his class. It wasn't an unexpected response as a new middle-schooler. I had known for a while that I was on borrowed time. I was grateful that seeing me up to that point evoked such an outwardly loving response from my outgoing youngest son. But I can't say that the head nod didn't hurt my heart that first time. That slight shift was a reminder to me that time is passing and changes are already starting on the not so long road to adulthood and independence.  

While my nest isn't completely empty yet, (it's still half full ... or half empty ... depending on your point of view!), I'm certainly headed in that direction. My oldest four are out on their own; three of them are married and two of those have blessed us with grandchildren: four boys and one princess so far! It’s surreal to still be parenting two middle-schoolers while enjoying all the chaos that five grandchildren under the age of 3 bring.  


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As parents, we can stunt our adult children's growth and confidence if we step in and do too much in times of struggle. #CatholicMom


Last week, I read a blog post from an empty nest mom reminding me that my parenting role as my kids get older is to become smaller. In the words of John the Baptist, "I must decrease." My role as a mom of young adults is much different than my role as mom when they were younger. It's that "change" word creeping in again. While there are certainly benefits to learning to let go—I no longer am responsible for things like worrying about getting a picky eater to consume more vegetables or being in charge of every child's day to day schedule(phew!)—it can also be a bit messy. Learning to keep your opinions to yourself unless asked can be a challenge. Learning to throw out your own ideas and suggestions and let your adult children decide what's best for them is humbling. Watching your adult children stretch and grow into spouses and parents and all the challenges those big changes bring isn't easy.

Sometimes there's a fine line between trying to help in a healthy way and being codependent and trying to "save" them. As parents, we can stunt our adult children's growth and confidence if we step in and do too much in times of struggle, so learning healthy boundaries is so important. Finding a healthy balance takes time and effort. But don't worry, God always provides lots of opportunities in our day-to-day life to practice! 



Copyright 2023 Michelle Hamel
Images: Canva