By Rebecca Horch, BACYC, CPC
Without getting into too much detail so as to protect her privacy, my daughter is starting to show signs of puberty. She is my only daughter and my first child who is hitting this milestone.
I’m a Parenting Coach. I have studied attachment, human development, and gentle parenting for years. I thought I was prepared for this. Let me tell you, I AM NOT.
My daughter is transitioning. And so am I. I think if I were someone who wasn’t so aware of the micro nuances in my feelings, I might just move into this stage with annoyance at the bad attitudes, and the practical “pushing through” of a very normal part of child development. But sometimes, with more awareness comes an invitation to growth. She is slowly but surely becoming a woman. And in her transition is an offering for my own.
I believe that our job as parents is to provide a safe, loving environment for our kids to come into themselves fully. The world out there may not always be the kindest to them, but at home, we can make sure they always have a sturdy landing pad. But what happens when they’re looking for that sturdy landing pad, and suddenly you as a parent don’t feel so sturdy anymore? And to boot – the reason you’re not so sturdy anymore is because it’s your child that is throwing you off? This is how I feel about my daughter moving through this perfectly normal and healthy developmental milestone. Off balance. Like I don’t know up from down. It’s shaky ground for this momma.
I feel the tightness in my chest, and the lump in my throat as I write this. My daughter is growing up, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. A part of me wants to halt time. Hold her here for another few years. Keep her young, and I lament that I have to let the universe, God, spirit…just do her thing. Doesn’t anyone see that I’m not ready? Doesn’t anyone realize she’s still just a little girl?
From a coaching or therapeutic perspective, there is actually a lot we could talk about for the reason why certain things our kids do, say, or move through seem to affect each of us differently. If we look at it through a trauma-informed lens, oftentimes when our kids are at an age or stage where we experienced disconnection or lack of safety, it will suddenly bring up old scared parts of ourselves that were long hidden away in the recesses of our memory. Suddenly we start acting out of parts that are much younger and hold a lot less knowledge and wisdom than we do now as adults. Our kids are our mirrors, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to recognize when this is happening. It’s our responsibility because our children need us to be stable and present, not lost in the past acting out of old triggers. And it’s an opportunity because if we let it, it can point to deep healing both personally and relationally with our own kids.
So this is where I’m at with my own daughter. Standing at a precipice with both a responsibility and an opportunity ahead of me. And if I’m being honest, it feels really scary. A metaphor that comes to mind is about goo. Yes goo, you read that right. The metamorphosis in the life cycle of a butterfly happens when a caterpillar spins a silk covering for her chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar’s old body dies and a new body forms inside the protective casing. During this time, the caterpillar’s body breaks down and digests itself. It literally turns to a gooey mess of cells, which eventually are used to form the new butterfly body. It is part of the transformation, this gooey mess.
There are certain milestones in our lives that present the opportunity for this type of transformation: going to school for the first time, puberty, moving out, getting married, menopause…to name a few. But what they don’t tell you is that these transformations can be equally as transformative for the parents who are witnessing them.
So, right now I am in the goo. I’m in this beautiful process of my own transformation as my daughter mirrors back to me all the work I still have to do, and the fears and confusion I carry, and all the wanting and not wanting I have for her. And it feels gooey. A messy middle with no form. But the goo has a purpose.
I think this particular goo stage for me is actually grief. I am grieving the loss of her childhood. I have anticipatory grief of the emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence. I am grieving her distancing from her brothers, and needing more space. I am grieving the changes in her body. Her transition is beautiful and good and right. And I am grieving.
At the same time, I am grieving the innocence I lost when I went through this myself. I am grieving the parts of myself that were left outside the circle of acceptance and love from people I needed to be there for me. I am grieving for my inner child who felt so gooey, but was alone in it. And finally allowing myself to grieve and hold the younger part of me with love and acceptance is my transformation. My transition is beautiful and good and right. And I am grieving.
The thing about grief is that it needs a ritual. This is why we have funerals for our loved ones who pass away. But there are so many different kinds of grief in this world that we don’t honor in the same way that we do for physical death. We push this necessary process to the back burner of our hearts and minds, not given the space or importance it deserves. I believe, however, that grief is a part of all transitions. With everything new comes a letting go of something old. With the death of the caterpillar comes the life of a butterfly.
So as I was sharing this experience with a friend the other night, she offered the space I needed to grieve without shame…and I took it. Yes, of course, I want my daughter to grow up and experience all that a developing mind and body has to offer. But I am also going to miss her. I’m going to miss my baby girl. A part of me knows that there is so much beauty to look forward to, but in the meantime, it’s important that I learn to let go and trust. Trust that she will be ok. Trust that we’ve done a good enough job until now. Trust that her body is going to know exactly what to do. Trust that she has enough self-love and self-kindness to move through this without too many bumps in the road. Trust lacks all control. Trust equals risk. I could hold her back if I wanted to. Her body can continue changing, but I could keep her small. So many of us know what that’s like, don’t we? We have the experience of being kept small as young people. And now we’re raising children who we refuse to do the same too. And that means I have to let go and trust. It means I have to be gooey for a while.
Motherhood carries with it a new kind of opportunity for deepening. For growth. So much emphasis is put on the child’s growth, but I am learning, like so many things in our world, it is symbiotic. As my children grow, so do I. Every new stage is an opportunity to become more of myself. This is a gift. And with every new transition, it means saying goodbye to an outdated version of yourself. And that is worth grieving.
So I will let myself cry. I will cry into the arms of my husband, and my friends. I will cry as I look through old pictures and sort old clothes that no longer fit her. I will hold my younger self as I watch my daughter become a young woman. I will refuse to let her feel shame about such a natural and beautiful transition, so these tears and fears belong to me, not to her. But yes, I will let myself grieve, I will turn to goo. Because I know that a beautiful butterfly awaits me on the other side. And she and I will emerge together.
Interested in exploring being, healing, and emerging in the goo? Book a free consult with Rebecca here.
Rebecca strives to support others in building resilience, self-compassion, connected relationships and self-awareness. She loves to work with people who are ready for the hard work of inner growth and is passionate about helping others tap into their intuitive gifts and use them in this world.
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