Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Conflict of Independence

When our children are born we look at them all defenceless and completely dependent.

We wash them, we feed them, we tend to their cries.

And then as they grow we begin to teach them.

Teach them to wash themselves.

Teach them to feed themselves.

Teach them how to dry their own tears, how to resolve their own conflicts.

We teach them to be resilient, how to manage when things don't go their way.

How to lose with grace & dignity.

How to consider other people & how our own behaviour affects others.

We teach them that we live in a big big world but that as humans we have a responsibility to each other.

We watch as our children make little mistakes as they navigate this growing independence.

We reflect on our own mistakes and our own unique journey into adulthood hoping that some of the mistakes that we made won't be made by our children, hoping that we have somehow given them the tools to make that path a little easier than it was for us.

In our family we are watching as our eldest begin the years into young adulthood.

As a parent I am watching and feel conflict as a parent that I have never felt before.

I always felt confident as a parent when they were little.  I knew that what I was doing was right.

That I was giving them the right tools to make their way through early childhood.

Now I am not so sure.

There are fights- not big ones but we really haven't had any before.

It doesn't feel familiar.

It makes me feel uneasy.

Makes me question whether I am doing the right thing.

That teenage confidence of 'knowing everything' and ever growing need for independence has crept in.

The secret world of youth.

It is so necessary and right for young adults to have a little bit of secrecy from their parents....but it feels uncomfortable for me and that tug of anxiety is always there.

I know we will make it through and that the groundwork we have paved is solid.

But it is hard.

Really truly hard- the hardest part by far.

What is it that is hard?

I have thought about that a lot.

It is the beginning of really & truly letting go.

Having to trust that I have given him everything he needs to make it through.  I have to let go of the safety line a little at a time and trust that he can indeed do it on his own.

The conflict of independence is knowing that independence is exactly what we want without really wanting to let them go from us at all.

After all wasn't it just yesterday that I held this babe, who is now well & truly taller than me, in the crook of my arm?

Whoever pressed the fast forward button would you mind pressing pause while I catch my breath just for a second.


Most people don't know how easy it is to make your own mustard.
I love really hot mustard.  The kind that blows your sinus to bits- like a good Wasabi hit.
I grow my own horseradish- well really it grows itself (blogged about it here).
I love it in mustard.  We got a beautiful batch of Horseradish mustard in our latest delivery from Bruny Cheese and it is all but gone.   I promised one of my kids- who LOVES it- that we would make our own It is HOT so use it sparingly!  Also it is worth noting that the flavour develops over a couple of days.
Here is the recipe- it will be enough to fill a small jar. 

  • 1/2 cup good quality mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of brown mustard seeds 
  • 60g fresh horseradish, cleaned, trimmed & peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 clove of garlic
Grind the peppercorns, salt, garlic & juniper berries in a mortar & pestle to a fine paste.

In a food processor blitz the horseradish with the vinegar until a fine paste.

In a small bowl add the horseradish vinegar to the mustard powder.

Add the ground ingredients, whole mustard seeds and the sugar.

Stir through and place into sterilised jar.


Let it sit for a couple of days before you use it to let it's full flavour develop- if you can resist!

This track is a live version of one of my favourite Calexico tunes. Enjoy.


  1. Once again you've jumped in my head and written a post far more eloquently than I could. I need that pause button x

  2. Teens, it's like being back to having your heart feeling as vulnerable as the days of cradling your newborn.
    Love, love, love

  3. I am sending my first to school next year, that is hard enough, teen age years already scare me.

  4. I liken the teenage years to being on a roller coaster, so hang on tight, close your eyes and know that it will be over and you can relax xx

  5. Gosh yes, slow it down a bit please! Xxx

  6. Oh STOP it. Thanks for the timely reminder. I am going to enjoy and savour helping my little ones tomorrow. I know the hardest is yet to come....you are doing a FAB job. Promise. x

  7. My eldest is now 19 and so I've been through what you going through once, four more to go! I found it very confronting, especially as our relationship seemed to change. She was often angry at me, for no apparent reason, and that was SO hard. I also didn't have friends with kids the same age so there was no support group, I hope this is different for you. It really is a letting go process also a surrendering, a time when you realise you have very little control and that is a scary thing. My eleven year old is on the brink of change too, one minute she is adorable, the next a whirling dervish! Hang in there & have faith in your parenting, you sound like an amazing mum xo

  8. They grow up so fast. I feel like I'm learning to let my biggest go with him starting school next year and it's hard, and yet it's just the beginning. I can only imagine what it's like with a blossoming young man.

    Beautiful post and strikes a chord with me - I often think about how I want to set the groundwork for when my little ones are ready to pull away and find their independence, about how I want them to know that it's ok to do their own thing knowing that I'm here for them. It's the constant challenge - encouraging their independence while holding them close.

    I don't know what lies ahead for those teenage years but I hope that it's made easier by the great foundations you've already put in place xx

  9. I have a post so similar to this in my drafts waiting for the finishing touches. I feel the same. At tmes I feel so out of my depth. I am lucky enough to have Beck's wisdom to guide me when I am completely at a loss.
    Big love to you honey. xx

  10. for sure the hardest part of parenting for me is letting go. i will always struggle with it, i know. i look for that pause button every day. thanks for sharing your lovely insights x

  11. and just after i read your post i saw this... http://www.etsy.com/listing/86109981/i-will-never-lego-print
    made me laugh x

  12. Beautiful post and so true. Our eldest is 13 and the hardest part is trusting that we have done a good job and armed her with knowing right from wrong.
    Lovely to find your blog via BabyMac. Following you now. x

  13. I really have no words of wisdom for you lovely. What you speak of is the thing about parenting that scares me most. The thing I will say though is that you're a brilliant Mama and your Mr is clearly a great role model for your boys. I was talking to a friend last week about how "easy" I find it to get my head around the giving children "roots" in which they establish themselves but how hard I know I'll find the "wings" part of the parenting equation. I've absolutely no doubt your boys will all become wonderful men with the fabulous love they've been surrounded by and all the living authentically examples they have around them. MUCH love to you Ruth. xxx

  14. I once heard someone say a good parent aims to make themselves redundant. At first a confronting idea, however when one thinks of it in terms of supporting a child to become an independent and confident young person ready to face the challenges and joys of life as a adult, it does make sense. Independence from their parent does not exclude the love between them, but perhaps ultimately allows the young adult to undertand it and appreciate it even more. As much as he might push away to explore the world and find his own grown-up place in it, I am sure your young man will always carry your love at his core.

  15. I am actually quite aware of how painful i was as a teen. I didn't know it then but its so hard to find out what sort of adult you should grow into..and all those hormones and emotions...its so hard for the kids..and the adults of course. Stay positive...it will pass

  16. That you are able to reflect on this like you have tells me that he (and all your children) are going to be fine! Glad to find you and looking forward to more xx

  17. Been meaning to leave a comment for a while, lovely post Ruth. Steve


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