My countdown has begun, which means that right now I am somewhere between endings and beginnings.
My three older kids are young adults and are largely living on their own. My baby is wrapping up middle school and is anxious to start high school. He is ready for football games, dances and all the experiences he witnessed as his older siblings successfully completed high school. With one child left at home and the others too busy launching their lives to check in as often as I would like, I sometimes find myself feeling wistful for playdates, family movie nights, and kitchen dance parties.
On the other hand, I occasionally dream about what lies ahead, when my weekends will be free from shuttling my 14-year-old son to soccer games and mall trips. Last week, while driving him to school, I had the chance to dream out loud when my son asked me, “What is your perfect day?”
Surprisingly, I did not hesitate and proceeded to launch into a description what sounded like a 36-hour day.
A Perfect Day
I would wake up early, just as the sun was rising and turning the skies a vibrant shade of pink, I told him. The weather outdoors would be perfect, cool and dewy, warm enough for just a sweater, and cool enough for a steaming cup of coffee. I would rise, completely rested, and unhurried, sit on the front porch with Molly, our family dog, enjoying the first moments of my day. Then, Molly and I would take a walk through the nearby canyon, stopping to enjoy the spring wildflowers blooming from our recent rains, and the water flowing in the creek.
After the walk, I would head off to the spa to enjoy a relaxing facial and massage. Then, I would treat myself to a sushi lunch, followed by a quick stop at my favorite store. There, I would find the perfect outfit, one that fit me like it was custom-made for my short and solid frame, and it would be on sale! Wearing my new outfit and looking fabulous, I would meet my husband for cocktails and dinner followed by an evening at the theater, for my favorite Broadway musical. (My husband would not fall asleep or look at his watch during the show.)
Afterwards, we would head to a nearby restaurant with a view for cocktails. While we sipped our cocktails he would surprise me with plans for a romantic getaway to an exotic destination. Somehow, magically, my bag would be packed, the dog sitter would be hired, and the child care arranged. We would leave the restaurant and a driver would take us away to board our flight.
As I explained the entire day to my son, I could envision all of it. I could almost smell the eucalyptus in the spa, hear the music at the theater, taste the champagne. I was jarred back to reality when my son’s man voice asked, “Do you know what the most surprising part of your perfect day is?”
I thought about it for a minute and then replied, “The fact that I could find an outfit that fit me perfectly, so easily?”
We laughed and he said, “No. The most surprising part of that story is the fact that the entire day does not involve any kids!” The dog is with you in the morning, and dad is there at the end. Where am I?”
He was right.
I had not even thought about it as I recounted my fantasy. My perfect day did not involve packing a lunch, driving the carpool, or folding a single sock. My perfect day was all about me. Instinctively, I felt bad. Where were my kids in all of this? I love being a mother and I miss my older kids, I did not even miss a beat describing my dream day without kids.
Perhaps that is just a sign of the in-between. The stage in life where I look forward to days without the constant demands of parenting. The days when I return to doing the things I love, without the guilt of letting laundry pile up, or ordering take-out instead of cooking. The days when my husband and I will be free to enjoy the romantic, impulsive dates of our courtship, and the exciting adventurous trips we plan to take in our retirement.
Yet, turning to my son in the car as we approached school drop off, I glimpsed the surprise in his eyes, and the recognition that perhaps his mom, the one who scolds him for leaving the damp towels on the floor, the half-eaten sandwich in his lunch bag, and the dirty soccer shoes in the car, perhaps his mom is not just the housekeeper, cook, chauffeur, after all. The recognition in his face that I sometimes dream of what is ahead for me.
Yes, I am looking ahead to “my perfect day”, and yet I am missing the perfect days of my children’s youth. I am at the in-between, which can sometimes make me long for what was, and yearn for what will be. But, as my son got out of the car, and I watched him greet his friends and walk into school, I realized that these days are perfect too.
Diana Meija is a mid-life mom and step-mom to four amazing humans. She works full-time in criminal law so she probably has some good stories in her, but her favorite stories to share involve every day life in her blended family. She blogs at Life Well Blended and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter @Blendermami.