Growing up with my daughter...

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When I was growing my first born, I thirsted for all the information I could lay my hands on to make sure I offered her the best start in life. I spent every spare dollar on books and read all of them from cover-to cover. I pored over, What to Expect When You Are Expecting, The Rhythm of Life and Positive Affirmations for Pregnancy and Birth. I hung off every word Dr Christopher Greene had to say, downed blueberries, folic acid and raspberry leaf tea like there was no tomorrow, all because the ‘experts’ said I should.

During the pre-school years I pounced on Melbourne Child warm off the press and could recite Toddler Taming by heart. I continued to seek every piece of information and advice from friends and professionals alike, as my children transitioned through all their ‘firsts’ – first sleepovers, first day of school, first menstruation - right up until I attended seminars on, Parenting an L Plater & Surviving VCE. Of course, I didn’t take heed of all the advice some of it was too difficult and some of it was just plain ridiculous! I couldn’t see the sense in reading advantage for 3 year olds and I certainly wasn’t going to disguise vegetables in desserts. I cherry picked the pieces that worked for my family, and with the guidance of all those experts, mostly we bumbled our way through. So when my 18 year old announced she was off to live in New York City to attend Acting School, (after picking myself up off the floor) I decided to turn again to the experts to guide me through parenting, but this time, an independent young adult.

There wasn’t necessarily a shortage of Empty Nest literature, but the advice was pretty universal, “Get a life!” Well that was well and good, I already had a life, a thriving private practice, friends and family to travel and socialize with and 2 gorgeous dogs (one that belonged to said daughter!) that demand my time, but what was I to do about this aching hole in my heart? I missed my daughter so badly it hurt. 

Oh dear, what had I done? I’d fostered independence and celebrated her for being true to herself and to her dreams. I’d reminded her enough times that she is responsible for her destiny and to welcome opportunity. And what did she do? She listened! Seized the day and embarked on a great life adventure. Now while others tell me how proud I must be, I envy them their Mother/Daughter time, their chats over coffee, and their weekends away.  I ponder how to stay connected to her during these years as she really transitions from girl to woman. As her Mother, I feel short-changed. I haven’t finished yet; I have plenty more to say! 

And as I lay in my bed Facetiming her at 2am, (during her lunch hour at school) I realize it is my daughter who can guide me how to navigate this new parenting frontier. I just have to allow her to. I still cry myself back to sleep sometimes after we hang up but then I sense I am no longer hanging up from my little girl but rather a capable young woman that now shares my joys and sorrows while I continue to share in hers. And as much as I treasured baking muffins together for class parties and receiving burnt toast and cold tea in bed on Mothers’ Day, there is something equally heart-warming and precious about this next chapter in our relationship. When my eldest sends me an encouraging text on the morning of an important presentation or posts a photo of a curry on Instagram with the hashtag #notasgoodasmum’s, I remind myself that times may have changed but the love between us is the same and maybe, if I am open to it, the connection woman-to-woman runs even deeper in its unexpected reciprocity. 

Reflection - "What have your children taught you?

( Specialising in working with children & adolescents, Megan Rees, works from her practice The Grove Counselling, located in the Melbourne bayside suburb of St Kilda East .)

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Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV

Navigating the anxiety of growing up....

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Long after the children had gone to bed, I came home last night to learn that our youngest had asked the question “Dad…is the Tooth Fairy real?” 

Three kids on, between us we’ve been asked this question many times and dodged it, in so many ways.  But this time, my husband confessed he couldn’t turn away from her direct and insistent gaze.

In his recounting of the story, I learn there were tears from her around the relief in finally knowing the truth, especially as she was being teased at school for still “believing”.  Combined with tears of confusion as it dawned another enormous step toward leaving her childhood behind.

Our youngest is 10 very soon.  We live in a first world country, where everyone is busy.  I was busy that night.  For the children and the parents alike, there are places to be, classes to attend, meetings to be had.  But at what cost? 

Taking the time to slow things down and acknowledge for both ourselves and our children that transition is occurring is critical to everyone’s wellbeing. 

For everyone change is hard.  It is a time of moving from the known to the unknown.  And with that comes fear.  Fear of will I be enough to cope?  Who will I become?  Will be alone in this new world?  Will someone be there to help me when I struggle in this new place?  These fears, often exhibited as anxiety, are as true for a child as they are for an adult.

When change is occurring for a child and you recognize how scary and unfamiliar it is for them, how it is hard it is to say goodbye to what they have known, that there will be times that they will wish they could go back to the past, and that through all of it, you will be there for them – is one of the best gifts we can give our children. 

The key here is time.  It takes time to offer someone who is fearful or in pain the space to slow down, feel safe and experience.

Sometimes as parents our child’s pain is more than we can bear, at others we may feel some guidance may be necessary.  In these instances, professionals experienced in working with children can help.

Finally take a moment and think about how you navigate change and what you do to address your fears and anxieties during transitions.  As parents it is these moments of modeling, combined with the times of being with our children as they try to navigate their own struggles, that will largely define our children’s capacity to tolerate change.  For you and your children, slow down and take time to be with both your and their experiences.  You are giving your child a gift.

I wasn’t there yesterday when the big question was asked and the truth revealed, but today I met our daughter at the school bus, so that we could spend the afternoon together.  On our walk home, she tells me about her chapped lips and that the best lip balm is “the one Santa gave me…I mean you gave me”.  We talk about how it makes her cry to think of Santa and the Tooth Fairy not being real.  And I am quietly thinking how it makes me cry, seeing our littlest growing up.  It is a transition for all of us, that we all have to navigate.  Holding each other along the way.

(Sarah Sacks is a counsellor and an advocate for enabling growth through transitions.  She practices at The Grove Counselling & Therapy, St Kilda East.)

If this content interests you and you would like to receive regular updates of developments at The Grove, please leave your details in the "Subscribe" box to your right.

Comment

Sarah Sacks

Sarah is a qualified and experienced counsellor, meditation teacher and group facilitator. Sarah's years of body based based practices, in meditation and yoga, have led Sarah to believe in the inherent wisdom of the body. In line with this belief, Sarah has trained and qualified as a Whole Body Focusing Orientated Therapist, Transpersonal Counsellor, Holistic Counsellor, Meditation Teacher and Group Psychotherapy Facilitation. Over the last 5 years Sarah has worked in the not-for-profit sector, the community health sector and privately, as a generalist counsellor and group facilitator. Sarah has experience working with children, families and adults around issues of; isolation, anxiety, depression, grief, loss, trauma, anger, separation, addiction and general mental health. Sarah's warm and intuitive counselling style, along with her extensive life experience, enables Sarah to gently support her clients towards their own path of change. Qualifications - Bachelor of Holistic Counselling, Diploma of Transpersonal Counselling, Bachelor of Business (International Marketing & Trade), Diploma of Arts (Japanese), ACA (level 2), qualifying member for CAPAV