Virtual Voices

Urgent parenting

Family

On Sunday morning I was taking care of a sick child. He's turning 16 next week, so he wasn't thrilled that I was home with him. What did I think he was, a baby?

Good question.

As my kids are starting to hit their later teen years I find myself reverting a bit in how I treat them. Three years or three months ago I would have left him home alone. This time I stayed, though he is certainly more than capable of sitting on the couch in front of the TV by himself. This is what I've strived to do, raise kids who are self-sufficient and competent, able to do for themselves.

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So why did I stay home with a boy who's taller than I am? Part of it is a growing sense that my days with my children are numbered.

This week we all heard the news of the sudden death of Elizabeth Edwards after a six-year battle with cancer. We grieve for those left behind, particularly her children. Her situation was yet another reminder of how little time we do have with our kids, either on earth (no amount of time would ever be enough) or as their primary caregiver. This growing up business has sneaked up on me and I have to admit I'm not ready for it.

Suddenly I see their every flaw, and since there is so little time in which to retrain or fine-tune them, panic sets in. They drive now, and I clamp down harder, where a year ago I let them go with more ease. And I am starting to grieve the end of the family unit as we have always known it, because I know they will soon leave the nest and the dynamics in the home will never be the same again. Hearing about Edwards, time seems all the shorter. Such knowledge leads to an urgency to instill as much knowledge and wisdom as possible into my kids, to hug them more, ruffle their hair, encourage them, laugh with them, and make time to connect eyeball-to-eyeball with them.

Man knows not his time. Neither does woman. Even for those of us who aren't suffering with cancer this minute, who aren't perched at death's door just yet, time is short. And while we shouldn't panic and, say, start feeding the kids cotton candy for dinner and quitting our day jobs to move to Disneyland, a certain amount of urgency in our parenting just may make us better parents.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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