Apron Strings and Mixed Messages

forest floorJust received an email from a dear friend.   Her youngest has gone off to college.  She lives on the other side of the country, and yet I can feel how her life has shifted in a plate tectonics sort of way.   I’d like to be camped at her house with cocktails, dinners, movies and whatever her favorite distractions may be.  I know that the gesture would be appreciated, but that’s the last thing she would want right now.

Our parenting styles are very similar.  That is to say, our worlds revolve around our kids, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m a recovering helicopter parent.  When Will was small, I obsessed about every bite he took, the length of every nap, and his clothing preferences.  I could tell you what kind of mood he was in by the expression on his face.  I knew his smell, the rumblings he muttered when he slept, his favorite songs, and his weird sign language that took the place of speech for a scary long time.

We seemed to communicate on a cellular level.

When Jenny came along, I was presented with a new being to cherish and obsess over.  I was in tune with her on a totally different, feminine level.  I read her moods, felt her needs and anticipated her wants before she had to express them.


Sometimes I Forget

It’s always a bit precarious to admit to forgetting… “the time we went to the St. Paddy’s Day Parade and I had my first Snickers Bar.”  (Kids have an uncanny ability to associate time and place with food.)  Because we are so connected, sometimes they get to feeling a bit untethered when I admit to forgetting something like… “the cute flowered shirt with the green trim that I wore to preschool when Andrew spit his juice box across the table at me and wouldn’t help me clean up the mess.”

Jen and Will believe I breathe mountain air through their lungs, see the milky way through their eyes, taste the first sweet raspberries of the season with their tongues, and hear Nina’s peculiar meow with their ears.

I don’t have a problem with that.

In fact, I think every kid deserves the illusion of believing that they are that intimately connected to their parents.

For awhile.

And then the first apron string is snipped.  Better the snipping be done by the child – with tiny, red-handled, round-tipped first day of preschool scissors.  Let the snipping be subtle, void of fanfare and theatrics.

Let them fit the scissors over their chubby fingers, snip gently and move on.  They need the security of knowing there are a lot more strings.  They don’t all need to be snipped at once.  Let them believe they are in charge of the scissors.

The snips will eventually turn to cuts – hard and loud and painful.  It can’t be helped or avoided.


A Deep Connection

This connection, that my friend and I have with our kids, is as basic as breathing.  It comes naturally to us.  We don’t have to fake it or work at it or pretend to care as much as we do.

This connection is part of our genetic coding.

I am not suggesting that our way of parenting is the best.  It is what works for us.

So far it seems to be working for our kids.

I know some fantastic parents who don’t obsess about their kids.  I envy parents who relate on a less intuitive level.  Maybe they won’t have to find new lungs for breathing once their kids move out.  They connect just fine while maintaining their own minds and bodies.

There are different ways of connecting.

It’s the NOT connecting that mystifies me.

When Mark says he wants to see more of the kids, talk to them more often and know them better, I am confused.  First of all, I can’t understand how he could let himself get into a position of having that connection compromised.  Secondly, I can’t understand saying you want to see them more and then not following those words with actions that indicate an attempt to see them more.

Granted, we are away from our hometown right now.

How about calling them?  Send an email that says, “I did this today and thought of you.”  Text a message that says, “Can’t wait 2 see u.”


Anything that says, “Yes, I want to be connected to you.”

I wonder if Mark has noticed that his apron strings are dangerously close to being cut all at once – by big, serious, black-handled, pointy metal scissors.

I wonder if Mark knows the hands holding those scissors are not mine.

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  1. I think I’ve said this before: I love your analogies! I wish I had ’em all in in a little book on my nightstand so I could just flip to page X and re-read your words whenever I needed a lift. That reminds me, are you still working on a book??

  2. Sue,

    Thanks for that. :)

    I think of the book and working on it as my spot on the couch, in the sun, with a couple pieces of good dark chocolate, hot tea and an uninterrupted chunk of time. The point is, I so love working on it, but don’t get to very often – kinda like that spot on the couch.

    I’m getting close. Thanks for asking.

    How are you and your little sweethearts?

  3. You might be wrong, your camping at her house might be just what the doctor ordered. You always amaze me at the insight you bring to the everyday things. And you a “helicopter parent”–never–just a concerned, wonderful mom looking out for her kids’ best interests. You are the best!

  4. No, YOU are the best.

    love you :)

  5. Jesse,

    My little darlings are happy. The youngest is almost walking – soon his big sis won’t be able to boss him around anymore!


  6. Sue,

    Sounds like you are in for more fun and excitement and picture taking at your home.

  7. Thank you so much for putting my parenting style into words…

    And while the cutting of the aprons strings happens by our children, one by small thread at a time … There is pride of watching them grow in their independence. (and tears)…

    And sometimes I have noticed that some of those strings get re-tied for a moment while they navigate through their lives.

    Although separated from my N for over a year… I am still criticized on my parenting almost daily from him… And now through your words I will stand strong against him knowing that I am parenting exactly the way that my two amazing boys ( 10 & 11) need.

  8. Lisa,

    Yes! I have witnessed the re-tying as well. You are so right.

    Your boys are blessed to have you as their mom.

    So glad you are sharing your voice here!

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