I sent my sister a text on Christmas morning to see how her day was going. Her kids are a bit younger than mine, and I was thinking they probably woke her up really early to open their gifts.
I was wrong, though. My sweet sister was practically in tears saying, “It’s just not the same. They don’t care anymore. They didn’t want to leave cookies or a note to Santa and we had to wake them up this morning.”
It immediately shook me back to about four years ago when this started happening with my kids.
At first, I’d felt a bit of relief — no more Santa lies, no more hiding the elf. No more slipping into their room in the night to put money under their pillow and take a lost tooth. But with that, a lot of magic flies out the window and you realize a certain special stage of your relationship with your kids is gone.
As I was sitting on my sofa texting my sister, watching movies while my teenagers were up in their rooms doing what teenagers do, it hit me: This was the first year that I didn’t have any of that angst my sister was going through. It was the first time since my kids started growing out of some of our old traditions years ago that I didn’t feel like I had a bleeding artery shooting out from my heart.
My sister asked me if I struggled as much as she’d been struggling this year. I assured her I had, and told her to hang on tight because it might be tough on her for the next few years as they pull away more, think everything is dumb, and no longer get excited about things that would have once thrilled them.
When they are younger, there is a light inside of them. It’s what makes us excited to hide the Easter eggs, wrap the gifts, decorate the house like a snow globe, or throw them a themed birthday party. It allows us to tap into our own childhood and relive some of the most meaningful memories we had as kids, or give them memories we wish we had.
Then, when they are over it (and let’s face it, over us), it absolutely sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It bites the big one and we feel like we are left with groans instead of squeals, indifference instead of excitement, and grumpy kids who are too busy to partake in family traditions with us.
The changes that our tweens and teens are going through are huge and all-encompassing. It’s a big loss for parents of the world, and it feels like our kids don’t really give a shit. They want to grow up and do their own thing. They want to talk to their friends and move away from the family unit a little at a time and yes, it’s truly heartbreaking for the parents.
It’s the end of a chapter, and a reminder things will never be the same.
Pre-teens and teenagers have a way of leaving a void in their parents’ hearts and it’s a hard heartbreak to recover from.
Watching all of my kids grow up (and grow out of me) has been the loneliest feeling I’ve ever had in my life. No one told me this would happen. But if they did, it still wouldn’t have prepared me for all it has taken to try and get through it.
It’s a feeling of sadness for me, but I’m also sad for them, because I know a lot of their innocence and that childhood magic has faded away. I can’t create it or give it back to them no matter how hard I try. My sister is just beginning to feel these feelings, and I feel for her, because it’s a long, hard road to acceptance.
However, this year on Christmas morning my oldest son came into my room to wake me up at 6:30. He said it was because he was hungry and wanted to know when I was going to put the french toast casserole in the oven. But I think he was up because maybe he’s been missing someone of his childhood magic too.
It wasn’t the same as when he was younger and would burst in the room begging to go downstairs to see if Santa came, but I’ll take it. At this point, I’ll take whatever I can get to remind me that no matter how much they detach, they’re still my babies.