It’s a strange phenomenon how milestones hit us. Stuff like decade birthdays and babies being born and marriage and kids leaving for college can all whack us in the back of the head in very random and unexpected ways. Kind of like how it’s hitting me right this exact second that my youngest is rounding out the last few months of her senior year of high school. And that in just six short months, Dave and I will be setting up her dorm room, hugging that gut-wrenching goodbye, and driving home as empty nesters. Like, wtf?
But sitting here next to her on this plane this morning, realizing that she already knows where she’s going to college and that this is our last high school winter break together, I’m suddenly overcome with the feeling that I’m not ready. I’m not ready to stop making lunches. I’m not ready to walk past both of my girl’s empty bedrooms every single day. I’m not ready for the silence. I’m not ready to have next to no laundry to do. I’m not ready to be by myself in the house with just the dog when Dave travels on business. I’m not ready to buy one bag’s worth of groceries every week. I’m not ready to stop incessantly nagging people to pick up all their crap. From everywhere. And I’m definitely not ready not to have anyone need me on a daily basis for all the insignificant things that every kid needs from their mom every single day. Nope, I’m definitely not ready for all that.
Now ok, sure, my rational, logical mind knows that this is all supposed to be happening, but there’s absolutely another super-strong segment of my brain that just woke up and is already rejecting this whole idea of sending our baby off to college. Because, in my mind, even though we have kids so that we can raise and nurture them, and teach them and love them, and ultimately send them out into the world to become the teachers themselves, I just don’t think I’m prepared for the hard stop that’s coming this fall.
Of course I’m excited to have this time with Dave and the freedom to go anywhere and do anything. Any time. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Especially after over twenty years of barely being able to sneak to the bathroom alone without kid fingers snaking under the door and wiggling at me. But the closer this new chapter really gets, the more I just wanna shove a bookmark in between the pages right where we are and freeze the story in its place. Cause I just can’t seem to get my head around giving up my day-to-day life as somebody’s mom. And between you and me, at this moment, I’m not exactly sure how I’m gonna square with that.
But that’s on me. And it’s been on every parent who’s come before me, and it’s on every parent who’s in the exact same situation that I’m in right now. And that’s what I need to focus heavily on over these next six months. That’s what I need to force myself to remember. Because it’s gonna happen whether we’re ready or not.
So while I’m clearly not excited to have an empty house this fall (no, Dave, I haven’t forgotten you’ll still be there…it’s just different), I’m gonna try hard to remind myself that my kids and their laundry are going to be exactly where they’re supposed to be this fall. Because as depressing and scary as it is to picture a quiet, empty house with no kids after twenty-one years, there’s also a teensy, tiny spark of excitement in there that I’m gonna do my best to blow on. And even though I’m nowhere near ready to catapult into empty nestedness, I know it’s coming at me anyway, so I might as well find at least a fleck of silver lining.
Before I do anything, though, I’m gonna give myself some time to be sad, because the reality is that both my kids will most likely never live under our roof full-time again after the fall. (Unless of course they crash and burn at life but I’m counting on that not happening.) And considering I’ve defined myself as a mom for the last two decades, above anything else, not being a full-time one anymore is some heavy sh*t to reconcile.
But after that, and once I feel like I’ve appropriately mourned the end of one major, life-defining chapter in my life, I’m going to pull up my big-girl pants (maybe something snazzy like the Norwegian Curling Team’s uniform) and pull out the big-a** bucket list I’ve been carrying around all these years and start checking off some stuff.
Bottom line: Change involving our kids growing up isn’t easy, but we have to either embrace it or we let it wreck us. And since I’ve got no time for being emotionally incapacitated, I’m going with embracing it. (Keep in mind that we’re still six months out, so it’s easy for me to talk a big game with this much time still on the clock.) But I’m gonna try. I’m really gonna try.
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Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at Lisa Sugarman. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, BeingaMom.life, GrownandFlown.com and Care.com.She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety (Years 5-8): 18 Myths that Have You in Knots – And How to Get Free