Mom Confessional: The Day I Realized My Kid Doesn't Need Me

Mom Confessional: The Day I Realized My Kid Doesn't Need Me

“Roots and wings” was always something my mother said. Now it helps me with my own kids.

By: Helen Jane Hearn

My mother would say “roots and wings,” beneath a sigh every time I whined to her that I didn’t want to take the next challenging step in my life.

“Roots and wings,” she said, every time I tried to shake off the suffocating crush of family tradition.

That phrase, “roots and wings” helps me with my own children — it helps me put my place in their life in context: I am there to help them grow solid, deep roots and yet, at the same time, help them develop the skills they’ll need to leave the nest. But, as any parent will tell you, it’s more complicated than that.

My oldest daughter yearns for adulthood. She shares long stories with me about how much better her life will be when she’s a grown up. She will have purple hair, she will shop for her own clothes, wear high heels, chew big wads of bubble gum. She will eat donuts at every meal, wear lots of makeup and drive a pink car. She will watch all the fairy movies she wants, ride a flying horse to her job as a symphony conductor — and princess/doctor — and never ever have to take a nap.

She will eat fruit snacks and jellybeans for breakfast. She will never have to put her toys away and will have a whole room with bunnies, cats and baby goats. She will stay up late. And if that’s what being a grown-up means to my daughter, no wonder she’s in a rush to get there.

She doesn’t want to need me as much as she does. I see it. I see her longing for the future, when she can make her own choices. She can’t wait until she’s no longer under the constant direction to sit still, use her inside voice and put away her toys.


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That is how we lay down the “roots.” We help her develop the deep knowledge that she is worthy of love, no matter what. We teach her our family and cultural traditions, we teach discipline, and we teach her how to manage her feelings. We help her learn that the world is hers for discovering. In helping my daughter develop roots, she’s able to go off in the world to chew bubble gum and ride a flying horse.

She wants to be independent. She wants to be a grown up. But I know she still needs me. And I know she’s not ready yet.

That tension, between wanting independence and needing her parents, will help her become the woman she’s supposed to become. She gets to try and fail in a supportive environment — her roots give her a safe place to test her independence. Her roots will help her when she learns that eating donuts for every meal is cause for a stomach-ache, and that baby goats have a heck of a stink.

Soon, the impact I have on the woman she will become will be negligible. Friends, media and outside influences will conspire to push me out of the primary role I inhabit right now. In knowing that I can’t control the kind of person she’s going to be, it frees me up to inspire her to be the woman she’s meant to become.

I’ll provide those roots.

And I’ll provide those wings, because no matter how bittersweet, I can’t wait to watch her soar.

Napa Valley-based, Helen has written about Internet culture and home entertaining at since 1998. She is a certified specialist of wine and founder of Cheesewhizzes, a nationwide cheese tasting club. She also captains her bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce.

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