In its original French, the proverb sounds much more poignant than its English translation which we Americans have come to know as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
There is a great deal of online discussion regarding the true meaning of this idiom but one of my favorites is the following:
Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.
Apologies for the mind blowing paradox on a random Wednesday, but I was hoping for a little company. You see yesterday, Noah turned 14 years old and I have spent the last week trying to piece my own head back together after it exploded with the reality that we have reached this place. And by “this place” I mean the final frontier of parenting.
The set of milestones that now lies before me comprises markers that read “high school,” “drivers license,” “SAT,” and “college.” From where I stand, I can look back and still see “solid foods” “potty,” “kindergarten,” and “shoelaces.” It remains in my sight because the parenting road has not been that long thus far. However the speed at which we travel it varies significantly over time. The first three years seemed to stretch on forever, gradually picking up steam each year until the last year moved at the speed of….well…. life. And suddenly, almost without warning, the child I brought into this world is no longer a child.
It isn’t that I didn’t know these massive changes were coming. I have been schooled in the laws of nature. I recognize that human development is, for the lucky ones, inevitable. But wow. The baby who I carried in my tummy, then in the car seat, then on my hip, then my shoulders, then my back… has grown taller than me. Trying to hoist him in any manner today would not end well. (Think traction.) The child who I fiercely protected from all sorts of physical harm is now better suited to shield me from danger. And I’m not sure Noah realizes it yet but my days of frog marching him down the hall to have a time-out in his room are done. Physically we have changed places – almost overnight. Whatever comfort I get from having one more qualified guardian in my home is negated by the dull pain brought on by the reality that time marches on without our permission. If I could have stopped the clock leaving him at age 7 – I just might have. Selfishly.
This past weekend I was a lamenting with another parent about the challenges of raising children at different ages. I shared with her that I thought the hardest age to parent was the toddler years, when you couldn’t physically leave the child in a room alone without putting them in grave danger. Physically, this was completely exhausting but my friend disagreed about it being the hardest. She thought the most difficult time was now – parenting teenagers. Her reasoning has stuck with me. When our kids were little, you could soothe the majority of hurts they felt with a kiss and a band-aid. But the hurts they endure as teenagers, and later adults, can’t be so easily soothed. Their problems are much harder to fix.
My parenting mandate has indeed shifted — from physical to emotional. I don’t have to carry Noah when he is tired but I do have to teach him to conserve his energy for things that matter. He can cook his own food but I need to sit across the table from him when he eats so he knows how much I like spending time with him. He can swallow a pill, do his own laundry, carry a suitcase, and stay home alone for hours at a time. But I need to ask him how he is feeling each day, compliment him on how he looks, thank him for helping around the house, and give him even more responsibility so by the time he is leaves our home in just four short years, he is ready.
Physically, he could fend for himself today; emotionally he still needs his Mom. Don’t we always?
On the surface and just below, Noah is changing dramatically every day — as is my role as a parent. And I expect the pace of change to accelerate even further in the coming years. But our relationship at its core remains the same as it was in 1997 on the day he was born, cemented further each year despite the passage of time. I think they call it love.Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Joyeux anniversaire mon cher fils.