Becoming a parent changes us. It changed me in so many ways. But we are not done changing after they are born. As our children grow from tots to teens, we realize that growing up is a journey for the child and the parent. Sure, we mostly think about how much the child has grown and changed but as parents we grow and change with them (though not as literally as they do!) Having children is a lifetime commitment. As our children get older, it is easier to feel they don’t need us as much. That is natural and normal but they will always need you, just not as often. Even teenagers need their parents and they will always want to know you are there if they do need you.
Leon Scott Baxter is the author of the newly released parenting book, (affiliate link below) Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting: Raising Happy and Successful Children – The Common Denominator, and the founder of the website SafetyNetters.com. As a teacher and parent of two children he has a lot of experience with kids. That is why I am happy to have him share a guest post today that really speaks to the journey of growing up for both the child and the adult.
Growing Up Is A Journey For Children And Parents
by Leon Scott Baxter
Riley is seventeen years old, the oldest of our two daughters. She’s a good kid, does well in school, is respectful to adults, and, as far as I know, doesn’t smoke or do drugs. But, she’s still a teen, a senior in high school, no less. Therefore, she thinks she’s all grown up already. She’s got her own car. She tries to hide her eye-rolls when reminded to do her household chores. And, if she’s not out with her friends, she’s in her room, watching YouTube videos, FaceTiming friends or sleeping. She’s got this attitude like she no longer needs us, me and her mom. It’s as if she’s got this whole “life thing” all figured out and we’re just an inconvenience; at best, we’re the providers of her food and the roof she sleeps under. But, she feels she’s outgrown us and, although she loves us, seems to be counting the days until high school graduation and her true independence.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember eleven years ago getting a call at work from Riley’s school nurse. She’d fallen from the monkey bars, and they thought she may have had broken her wrist. She needed me.
I arrived at her school finding my first grade, little trooper with an ice pack over her arm. “Hi, Daddy,” she smiled at me. “I hurt my arm. Wanna see it?”
The answer was no. No, I did not want to see her wrist. One thing you need to know about me is that I don’t do well looking at injuries, mine or anyone else’s. I deal with pain just fine, but just don’t let me see it. Yet, here’s my little girl having fallen from the monkey bars asking me to take a look at her injury. I couldn’t actually tell her no.
“Sure, let me see it,” I answered.
Grotesque. That’s what it was. My daughter’s cute little arm was a bit in the shape of the letter “S.” So, I forced a grin, “You better cover that up now, Sweetie.”
As I drove Riley to the Emergency Room, I couldn’t get the image of her arm out of my mind. What was going on with those bones? And, that’s when it hit me.
We were maybe 200 yards from the hospital and I started feeling woozy. My vision started to fail me. I couldn’t believe it. I was about to pass out. I pulled the van to the curb, got out, bent down and put my head between my legs in order to get the oxygen-rich blood back to my brain so I could complete our trip to the ER.
To this day, Riley still loves retelling this story; her strong father is nothing but a wimp when it comes to seeing injuries.
This past Friday I came home from work to find Riley was gone. Apparently she was at school with her friends. I was surprised when I heard her car pull up around 6:30…on a Friday night?
She walked in wearing her flip-flops. “You’re home rather early,” I said.
Riley wore a smile on her face. I recognized this smile. It wasn’t her normal one. It was one she put on to mask something. “Well, actually, I kind of sliced my foot.”
Did she really have to use the word “slice?” That word alone could buckle my knees. I asked her what had happened (while avoiding looking down at her foot), and she explained she’d been walking with friends, not paying attention to where she was going when her foot hit a cement outcrop, and down she went.
“It didn’t hurt at first,” she told me, “but it hurts a lot now. I drove home like this. There’s a pool of blood in my flip-flop.”
I asked how bad it was. Did she need to go to the hospital? Might it require stitches? Riley hates doctors (after having to have that pin put into her wrist to reset the break over a decade ago). So, of course she tells me it’s not bad enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.
I tell her to clean it off in the bathtub.
“Do you want to see it, Dad?” she asks.
This time I respond without hesitation. “Sure, go soak it and I’ll take a look.”
There was a Y-shaped laceration on the top of her big toe and a flap of skin hanging from the tip of the same toe. Bloody, but I didn’t think she needed stitches.
The two of us took care of it. Riley didn’t want me touching her toe, so I instructed her how to clean the wounds, remove debris, and apply the ointment. She let me bandage it for her once she’d done the major doctoring of it.
“You doing okay, Dad?” she asked, knowing how I react to the sight of blood.
“I’m fine,” I smiled back at her.
“You’ve come a long way,” she said.
After Riley was back up on her feet I asked if she came home because she wanted someone to take care of her injury. She smiled coyly and said she did. She came back home because she needed me again. She was still my little girl and her injury reminded me of it.
I would never have wished Riley harm, but her hurt toe not only showed me that I had come a long way since her broken wrist, but that we had come a long way as a father and daughter. But, some things never change. She still needs her daddy…sometimes.