The other day, I said something that felt extremely weird and kind of freaked me out. I was talking to someone at work about my kids, and I said “My son is 14, and my daughter is almost 18.” It was the first time I’d said it aloud that the girl is going to be 18 soon and the reality sort of smacked me in the face. I know I’m not the first to say how fast they grow up and all that, and it’s true, but it’s more than that. If nothing else, I don’t feel old enough to have an 18-year-old!
I don’t wish they were little again. I very much enjoy my kids as older people, and I think I’m a better mom to older kids than I was to toddlers and young kids. I do wish I’d had more patience when they were young. I wish I’d taken more videos of them. If I could travel through time and visit their younger selves for a short time, that would be delightful, but I don’t want to do it all again. I think it’s more that you get to this point as a parent and realize the biggest part of your job is almost done, and just when they get to be really cool, interesting people, they leave you.
Then you start to question yourself: did I do it right, or right enough at least? Did I give them a happy childhood, fond memories to look back on? Do they have the skills they need to become independent, responsible adults? Will they be okay on their own?
I feel confident that she does have the skills, and she will be okay. I’m excited to see where she lands next, and watch her do all the exciting college things. As another parent told me, this is what’s supposed to happen. It’s a good thing, a happy thing.
But we all know there’s a thread of sadness too. I enjoy her company very much, I enjoy us as a family very much, and to know that we’ll see her so much less is a hard pill to swallow, even as I tell myself that it’s a good thing. She wants to go out of state, so she might be four hours away, or she might be ten hours away. Wherever she goes, she’ll be able to come home for visits. And I want her to go out into the world, to have the courage to venture away from home and try new and exciting things. I’m the tiniest bit jealous of the adventure she’s embarking on.
I am so very happy for her. But I am a little sad for me. I will miss her, if for no other reason than she’s more chatty than the two men in the house and she keeps me company.
However, a little is okay. I feel more optimistic and excited than I feel sad. But I also I think I’ve been in denial so far this school year. I thought I’d be a mess, crying at every “last” event, but it hasn’t happened…yet. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had that many true “last” things yet; most of them will come this semester. Maybe we’ve been so caught up in all the day-to-day stuff, all the college application stuff, that I haven’t had time to consider what it all represents. But I feel it looming. The college acceptances are coming in, the choices are getting narrowed down, that big birthday is coming closer. An empty nest is not that far away. I have primarily been Mom for the last 18 years. Who will I be after that?
I confess, I have entertained thoughts of life after kids, and they’re not all bad. The husband and I have talked of traveling a bit more (especially if we can get one of those grown-up kids to dogsit for us). We’ve talked about moving to a house that’s not a fixer upper in an area that’s not determined based on the local schools. We’ve thought about what paths we might want our careers to go, once we’re not quite so constrained financially. So yeah, it’s a little exciting for us too, for me. That’s what I’ll try to focus on as we move into this last stretch of senior year.
I don’t usually do those “pick a word for the new year” challenges, but it seems pretty clear that this year’s word is “Bittersweet.”