A few weeks ago I was teasing my daughter, telling her that now that she had a new boyfriend she was going to leave me and move in with him and I would never see her again. She told me not to be ridiculous and that she intended to live with me for at least two years after college graduation. Then the other night we were out to dinner and she announces that she’s going to be looking for jobs at hospitals further south in our state. Apparently they pay more.
I know it’s not unexpected. Children grow up and they leave the nest. It’s what we’re meant to do as parents. It’s a sign of successfully raising our children, not a sign of failure.
Meanwhile, Picasso has long spoken of his desire to get an apartment and be on his own shortly after high school. Who knows how that will play out? Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. I’m not rushing it by any means.
Nonetheless it resulted in me thinking about this whole parenthood thing and how it changes.
They start out as these little babies who are completely dependent upon you, and then grow into toddlers who must be watched constantly so that they’re not painting your walls or climbing on top of refrigerators, or cutting their brother’s hair. Or was that just my experience with toddlers? You get to that point where you think you’re never going to eat a meal without interruption again. You may never go to the bathroom again without an audience. I swore for the first three years or so of my daughter’s life that I was never going to take a shower by myself again. I was really really looking forward to having one in kindergarten and the other in preschool so that I could have two hours to myself again.
Then school begins. If you’re like me you get weepy eyed and start projecting into the future where your five year old is now going off to college instead of into kindergarten at the school two miles away. But you adjust. You begin to volunteer at the school and you run your kid around to various extracurricular activities. Even in kindergarten Miss Rock Star was a busy one. She had Bible Club, gymnastics, dance. Eventually Picasso was signed up for gymnastics as well, although he didn’t stick with it.
You’re busy with classroom parties, book fairs, talent shows, volunteering at Career Day, and helping them make Valentine’s Day boxes. You’re helping them get together an outfit for the Wax Museum, overseeing them at the 6th grade Valentine’s Day dance, and picking up cards, and Christmas gifts, and school supplies and all those little items you don’t even think about until your child is in school.
Before you know it you’re escorting your baby into the middle school so they can figure out their locker combinations and tour this new school. You think the world is ending and your poor baby is in peril from all these “big” kids.
The real shock comes when they enter high school. You listen at orientation as the seniors assure both them and you that they’ll love it here; it will become their new home and that those four years will fly by.
They’re not lying. Those high school years really do fly by. Next thing you know you’re attending their graduation, planning their graduation party, and shopping for items for their dorm room. Then you drive them down to that big school, help them unload their things, maybe shop for a few groceries with them. Finally you drive away, holding back your tears, knowing they’re entering a brand new phase in their life, and that things will never be the same again.
All this time you’ve been running kids around. You’ve invested your time, your money, your life into these little humans who are not so little anymore.
There were so many things I didn’t do because I had kids. So many things I would have liked to have tried or participated in, but I didn’t because I put my kids first and I was always busy with them and their activities.
I don’t want it to seem like I did nothing because I did have a pretty full life. As the kids got older I volunteered. I had friends. I played Bunko. I met people for lunch and breakfast. There were definitely things I couldn’t do though because I had to think of my kids. Jerry Lee was not much help and would whine and pout whenever he was left with the kids by himself, so I never had a girl’s weekend with my friends. I didn’t go out in the evening much, especially when the kids were little. The only reason I was able to throw myself a birthday party years ago was because my brother was willing to come up and watch all of the kids. It got easier as they got older, but there were still things I wouldn’t do because they needed me and they came first. This entire life after divorce has been about them and their needs.
Now, in another 2-3 years I won’t have any kids at home more than likely. Rock Star will probably have an amazing job offer before she’s even graduated. May of 2022 will be here before I know it. I’ll attend her pinning ceremony and she’ll probably move directly from her little house she’s renting with her friends, into an apartment of her own. If her plans pan out she’s going to be a good 2 1/2-3 hours away. I will rarely get to see her. I know it’s not a huge distance considering I moved 23 hours away from my own mom, but she’s a busy girl. I don’t see her coming home frequently. She already doesn’t come home frequently.
Oh, I know. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s yet another change. I’ll go from being a mom first to being a person first. No more will I have to consider my kids before making plans. I’ve long said that by the time I’m finally able to buy a house my kids won’t be living with me any longer. That makes me sad.
You put so much time and effort into being a parent. So much money. I think back on all the things I did without so that my kids could have what they wanted and needed. I think about all the times my days or weekends were filled with their activities. Even looking back on our summers, which I fully enjoyed, I realize they were all centered around entertaining them. Long days at the amusement park, the water parks, hikes, the rollerskating rink, the museums. And then one day it’s over. Your job is done. They leave the nest and you’re all alone, trying to figure out the next step.
I’m not as traumatized as this is making it seem. I know you never stop being a parent. I know that in many cases they return home or they still need you for advice and support. I am exhibit A, after all. Nevertheless, it’s a huge change. One that I’m trying to wrap my mind around. Once both of my kids are out of the house and on their own a large part of my identity is going to leave with them. The only constant seems to be change.