stephanie walking hand in hand with her children

On Having Your Emotional Umbilical Cord Deeply Stretched As A Parent 

“ …Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
(On Children ~ Kahlil Gibran)

stephanie walking hand in hand with her children

For the past nine months my daughters have been deeply stretching the invisible emotional umbilical cord that runs between us.

They’re growing up. Fast. Much too fast for me.

The irony, that this amount of time is about the length of an average pregnancy, has not escaped me.

I know this is a gestation and a rebirth of sorts, for me as a mother on this parenting journey. For us, and how we understand and relate to each other as parent and child.

But it has been surprisingly painful at times – pulling me between what I know needs to happen and also how it feels in my heart.

In these nine months (and longer), I’ve watched my children branch out in amazing ways as they explore new schools, friend groups, cultures, and ways of being in the world. 

Rather than corralling them into different activities or experiences as I might have when they were very young, I now gaze in awe at their strong, independent selves with unique personalities and choices and think about where these may lead them.

I see their delight as they conquer many new skills and traverse paths that didn’t even exist when I was very young.

I feel life bursting out of them – their eyes shining brightly with wonder and determination as they discover new interests and engage in their independent activities away from the nest of our home, returning to share the new adventures they’ve had.


This has been an interesting experience for me as a parent, and one filled with mixed emotions.

As my daughters assert more and more independence, I am both profoundly proud of them and also slightly saddened that they are moving farther and farther from my orbit and out into the world.

I know this is the way of things. I understand that it is critical to their thriving outside of the home. And of course, I want this to happen.

But this part of growing up as a parent – the letting go part – is hard to do sometimes. It can feel deeply painful at times – even physically painful in my heart.

This experience has happened many times before – cutting the umbilical cord after birth, their first smiles, first steps, first words, first days of school… 

Parenthood has been a consistent invitation for me to grow more bonded to my children while at the same time giving them more space and letting them go on deeper levels.

And I know that parenthood meanders through many different phases. Where children may move farther away from their parents and need more space in the later years of childhood and adolescence, they may in the future choose to move closer back into connection again with their parents as adults, having adult relationships with them.

But right now, with fall creeping in, the lived experience of watching nature’s relentless march forward always makes me ponder the sweet family times of summer that shift to less time spent together during the school year. 


And these days, life often feels like it is moving in fast-forward and moving faster every year.

I see my friends whose children are leaving for college, some of whom have even graduated from college, and I can’t help imagining what that will feel like. I see some friends with grown children having their own children and these friends becoming grandparents. I try to imagine what it must feel like to be my own parents’ ages, with adult children and older grandchildren who don’t see them nearly as often as wished for.

Fall feels like a time to reminisce and to marvel over how rapidly time seems to pass, while at the same time trying to stay present to the beauty of the changing leaves, changing seasons of nature, and the seasons of life. 

And yet, while my children may only “come through me and not from me” as Gibran says, I can’t help but have moments of feeling like I miss them even when they are still with me. Like knowing these beautiful leaves are changing color each day and will soon be carried from their tree by gravity and wind.

I’m doing my best to be as present as I can be in every moment, to soak them in, and to try not to allow my mind to move at the fast-forward pace our outer world moves at as well. 


And these days, life often feels like it is moving in fast-forward and moving faster every year.

I see my friends whose children are leaving for college, some of whom have even graduated from college, and I can’t help imagining what that will feel like. I see some friends with grown children having their own children and these friends becoming grandparents. I try to imagine what it must feel like to be my own parents’ ages, with adult children and older grandchildren who don’t see them nearly as often as wished for.

Fall feels like a time to reminisce and to marvel over how rapidly time seems to pass, while at the same time trying to stay present to the beauty of the changing leaves, changing seasons of nature, and the seasons of life. 

And yet, while my children may only “come through me and not from me” as Gibran says, I can’t help but have moments of feeling like I miss them even when they are still with me. Like knowing these beautiful leaves are changing color each day and will soon be carried from their tree by gravity and wind.

I’m doing my best to be as present as I can be in every moment, to soak them in, and to try not to allow my mind to move at the fast-forward pace our outer world moves at as well. 

This takes effort, diligence, and a great deal of practice and forgiveness of myself – things I share with clients and with my husband at regular intervals. And frequently I am just practicing the forgiveness of myself because it can be so difficult to actually do – leaving me feeling like I often miss the mark. 

Sometimes my heart aches with a combination of this missing, even while it feels incredibly proud of my children, and both urges and cheers them on to their desired independence. 

It’s a beautiful reflection of the whole journey of parenthood and the many emotions it stirs up.

Wishing you a wonderful leap into Fall.

Warmly,

Stephanie Dueger, PhD, LPC
International Parent Coach, Educator, Psychotherapist (CO), & Author of Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families (2020)


Whenever you’re ready, here are some ways I could help you or those you know who are hopeful, expectant, and/or new parents:

  1. Check out my coaching offers here, with special discounts for first-time coaching clients only.
  2. Grab a copy of my book, Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families (2020) here and please leave an honest review.
  3. See if my online interactive course experience with weekly group coaching might be a good match for you here.
  4. Listen to some podcasts about attachment, bonding, and parenting young children I’ve been featured on here and reach out to let me know what you think.