There is nothing more overwhelming that giving birth. That moment you are handed that screaming little person is possibly one of life’s greatest moments. You are overwhelmed by every emotion there is – fear, love, panic, wonder, admiration – you feel it all at once every few seconds but the love is rather overwhelming. I don’t you realise it until the second day when the sister comes to do those first vaccinations and you hear your baby scream, I remember wanting to punch the nurse with every single baby. You realise in that moment though, that you would lay down your life for your child without even thinking about it.
With each milestone you feel an immense sense of pride and joy and excitement.
Look she is rolling – so cute.
Look she can stand – isn’t she clever.
Look she can walk – what a big girl.
Listen she can speak – so smart.
Every milestone arrives and we celebrate. We share. We brag. We document.
Then the excitement dies down a little. They can walk and talk and draw and write and add and read. We celebrate but no one really gets excited when you post a picture of your kid doing his math homework.
Then they start growing up. Really growing up. Not just reaching new levels on the growth chart kind of growing up but a kind of growing up that pulls really hard on your heart strings. The kind of growing up that makes you cry a different, more real kind of tear to the one you cried they day he walked. It is not only a growing up but also a growing away, which is possibly why it is so emotional.
A few weeks ago Cameron put a password on his phone, I didn’t think much about it until I did and then I realised that he was talking to his friends and didn’t want us to see*. His expressions during the conversations he was having also made it clear that he may very well be talking to a girl, which he neither confirmed nor denied when I asked.
I really was not prepared for it. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that hit me harder than a bucket of ice. I shared on twitter the night it happened and the more I put into actual words what was happening, the more emotional I became. I wanted to rip the phone away and see who he was talking to and what they were talking about. I then wanted to smash the phone and tell him to sit down and watch Toy Story and declare it his favourite movie and ask for Buzz Lightyear Pajamas! I was not, and still am not, prepared for him to be experiencing “grown up” things like relationships and wanting privacy and separating himself from the family unit. It feels like they move through milestones at a certain pace and then they hit 11/12 and they leap across this abyss without fear to the other side while we, as parents, are still standing trying to catch hold of their feet as fly across because we aren’t ready because we know whats on the other side and we know that once their feet touch that side, we lose a pretty big part of who we are to them. I have never really been one of those moms who says “I wish I could keep them small” until that moment.
Parenting, for me, just got very real.
It didn’t end there. As you know Cameron is now swimming. He had his second gala this weekend and I couldn’t be there to watch him. As he got out the car, I wished him luck and said “remember we want a faster time”. There is this amazing app that basically allows you to follow the gala in almost real time. So you can see the times pretty much a few minutes after they have swum. I was sitting at home refreshing every five seconds and then there it was Cameron De Klerk, 1st place with an improvement of over 3 seconds on his time. It may have been my proudest mom moment so far.
Not only because he won but because HE did this. HE did it all on his own. Yes we have given him the opportunity, the support and encouragement but HE did it. HE made the decision this is what he wanted and he is putting the hard work in, he is getting into the pool every day even when he is exhausted and he is training his heart out, he is sacrificing time with his friends and lie ins on a Saturday morning. He has a goal and he has determination. It is an incredible thing to watch and to know that in a small way, David and I, as his parents, played a part in his achievements.
Dealing with the sleepless newborn months was tough. Taming toddler tantrums is challenging. Potty training is vomit inducing. Introducing solids is exhausting. Starting school is eye-opening.
Parenting a pre-teen will rip your heart right out of your chest. It will make all those early challenges seem like a walk in the park. You will wish for those days where you argued for hours with the toddler over which shoes to wear or how to cut their bread. You will miss the days where the talked non-stop about nothing and everything. You will wish that the next milestone had a start and end date. This stage, for me, is when parenting got real. It is NOW that you start to really be a parent because it is the years that lie ahead of us now that will really determine what he becomes and where he goes.
It has been a very emotional few weeks for me. I suspect it only gets tougher from here on out and I suspect there will be a lot more wine in my future.
This does sound like a very selfish version of things because it is. It is MY story. My emotions. Cameron’s story is now his to tell when and if he wants to one day.
The second photo was taken by Jeanette in I think one of then first family photo shoots she did in 2008.
The last photo was taken by Catherine at our photo shoot in September this year.
*I have no doubt that these are innocent conversations. He is not hiding them because he is selling drugs or having sex or whatever. Its just about him wanting some sort of privacy to be able to talk to his friends and very possibly girls.