Parenting Is Like Living in a Bowling Alley and We Are the Pins

Mom, I hate you.

Mom, I don’t like how you breathe.

Mom, stop interfering in my life.

Mommy, I love to double infinity and beyond.

Mommy, you will always be my best friend.

Mommy, I hope I grow up to be just like you.

All true statements from my three wonderful children.

As the youngest approaches 21, I think a lot about parenting, and I feel that parenting is like being in a bowling alley. And we, the parents, are the bowling pins.

Parenting knocks you down, but then you must get back up and reset. (Photo via Sharon Mastrangelo)

Our instinct is to help our kids navigate the world

To allow them to express themselves and earn their independence, we must learn to listen more and give less or no advice. But we aren’t trained for this; our instinct is to help them navigate the world.

So, we try to help them, but we get heavy sighs, or worse, they ignore us altogether. We wobble as our foundation of mothering is rocked. Maybe we lose a pin or two, but we get right back up and reset because perhaps they are right, and it’s time to let them go.

Then we wonder why they won’t let us help them.

Occasionally a heavy bowling ball of insults comes flying down the alley and lands a strike. We parents sift through our feelings, trying to figure out how to respond to them while still caring for ourselves…and we get back up. We always get back up.

Life transitions knock us down, but we keep getting back up

Preschool, Kindergarten, and college are heavy transitions that knock us down. They cry on the morning of the first days, and we cry for the rest of the afternoon. Graduation comes, ideally, a job, followed eventually by a move-out. As we celebrate these joyous milestones another strike knocks us down, but we get up again to watch them begin their lives.

This was always the point of parenting, right?

Love comes, perhaps marriage, and this is an exciting new chapter. Then reality strikes, and it’s a doozy. This time we get up again, but maybe slower for some…as we attempt to learn to share our child with another person and family.

Grandparenthood is the next stage

Grandchildren may be next; how incredible!! This is the ultimate in bittersweet. Your baby is having their baby. The one who has been keeping your bowling alley active for years is starting her own bowling game with her family.

You can visit her lane, but it’s her game now. And yet, it is such a fantastic chapter. Is it possible to be simultaneously happy, knocked down, and standing with pride?

Of course, it’s possible. The sadness of watching these transitions isn’t discussed much, at least in my circles.

Maybe I’m a unicorn, but I feel lost even as my children do what they were raised to do. You see, I never thought this far ahead. It came quicker than I wanted. Or maybe, because it was so wonderful, I never really wanted it to end.

Perhaps parenting is less a bowling alley than a movie theater. My family of 5 was my Oscar-winning movie that I could and did watch over and over again. My children were the stars in the film of my life.

Somewhere along the line, my movie had to end so that my movie star children could make their own movies. We get knocked down, and we get up again, and with any luck, someday we get to star as extras in our child’s Oscar-winning movie

More Great Reading:

5 Reasons Why Parents Cry at Every Single Graduation

About Sharon Mastrangelo

Sharon Mastrangelo works as a pediatrics nurse for 27 years. When she's not trying to keep her mouth shut to prevent herself from gently 'helping out' her children she loves to read, hike with her rescue dog Teddi Marie and volunteer weekly in children's library and food pantry. She is the proud mom of two adults daughters and one son, a junior at Syracuse and a new grandma and she's been married for 31 years.

Read more posts by Sharon

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.