We all know the phrase “cutting the apron strings.” Intellectually, we get it. Adolescents need to break away. They need to test their independence and differentiate from us. It is an inherently painful process. But “cutting the apron strings” is far too gentle a metaphor. The image conjures Donna Reed and Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver—apron-wearing, advice-dispensing parents finding tidy solutions for their teenagers’ kooky problems, all within a jovial half-hour.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not how it generally feels at our house. I think a more apt analogy might be, say, “sawing one’s own head off with a rusty blade.”
Perhaps you do not yet know what I mean. If your children are still young and lovely, brace yourself. It goes something like this: one day, you know if you could only see yourself through your beloved child’s eyes, you could finally accept your scars and imperfections. Flash forward a few years. You might be innocently getting dressed for your day in the privacy of your own closet. Your teenager barges in without knocking, and the look of disgust on her face re-activates every single body-image insecurity you have ever known. This is just one of many examples of how a teenager can bitch-slap you right out of any sense of confidence or enlightenment you might have developed, ever.
If you are a parent who does not yet have teenagers, I beg you to drop what you are doing and go smell your youngest child. I mean it—put your nose as far into his personal space as he will allow. If she will still let you smother her with kisses, go do it. Do it while you still can, my friend, because soon, all this is going to change.
If you are a parent with teenagers--if your voice and your wardrobe and your very existence have humiliated a child who formerly adored you--take a deep breath. There is hope. All of us, whether our children are six or sixteen, should breathe deeply and imagine our children as they were when they were toddlers. Sometimes, it’s the only way we can get through the day.