My oldest son used to reach out, grab my hair and gently twist the ends if I’d been away from him for a few hours. He needed me to lie with him to fall asleep, and he always needed me to stay in my car and watch him walk into school while he was in primary school.
My daughter used to say, “Mama, I need some of your time.” And there wasn’t a day that went by when she didn’t try and scoot her way between me and television shows, phone calls, or magazines, when she was little.
Something I’ve realised since having three kids close together is how suffocating it is. But before long, that suffocation turns into loneliness.
My teenagers barely want to be seen walking next to me right now, let alone provide any type of affection.
They certainly don’t need me to tuck them in or lie with them. Instead, they prefer I go to bed so they can have the downstairs to themselves for snacks and eating whatever they want.
My oldest drives now, so they rarely need me to take them anywhere because it’s way more fun to have their big brother do it lest I embarrass them in front of their precious friends.
When our kids are young, they are needy. That’s just the way it works for a while. They need us so much, all we want is a break and to be left alone with our thoughts because we can’t even pee without a knock at the bathroom door.
I need you to get me a snack.
I need you to help me reach my book.
I need you to help me with these LEGOs.
I can’t fall asleep unless you are here.
I want you to play with me.
And what about all the times we are in the shower or plucking out eyebrows and our spouse is watching the television or their phone, yet we are the ones they need?
Yes, we complain about it because it’s so freaking hard. And no, it doesn’t mean we don’t love our children. It means that it’s the most exhausting thing to be wanted so much.
Then, it all goes away. Your children not only don’t seem to need you, they don’t want you around.
I’m glad my kids are more independent now and don’t bang on the door when I’m soaping up, or cry when I leave. I’m thrilled they aren’t dependent on me for every meal, or need my help to drift to sleep when I’m touched out.
However, needing me a bit more than they do would be preferable. I’d kill for an evening of my kids just needing me to sit and talk or spend quality time with me.
I want to be needed more in the friend and romantic department of their lives. The part of their world that is under lock and key and every time I try to talk to them about something they look at me like they want me to disappear.
But I do realise my kids still need me, even if they don’t say it.
They need me to set boundaries, and give them a safe place to feel at peace. They need me to care even if they act like they don’t. They need me to protect them and remind them they are the most important people to me even though I’m met with groans and shoulder shrugs all day long.
They need me to keep on top of their lives even if they feel like they can handle it all on their own.
Except it’s a different kind of need.
I want to be asked for a hug and a long lunch together. I miss being the center of their world. I’d go back in time to have one of them run up to me and show me a flower. And what I wouldn’t give to be asked to watch them go down the slide at the playground one-hundred times, simply because they need me to see them.
The contrast from when my kids were younger to their teenage years is huge. The gap feels too big. I feel like I’ve fallen in and I don’t know what to do with the feelings that come with being needed so much you feel like you might vomit, to feeling invisible to your kids.
I want to raise resilient, self confident kids. I realise my kids are growing up and the days of sippy cups and applying sunscreen for them at the beach are gone. And I already know I’m not going to be one of those happy empty nesters who are going to be so happy when my kids leave the nest. I can accept and prepare for that.
While my kids are living at home, I’d like to be needed just a bit more. I miss who I was then. Yes, I was tired when they were younger, but I knew how to be that kind of mum. And honestly, I miss who I was then.