When your kids are little you never think the day will come when they’ll actually leave home. Sure, you joke about it, as in “One day when you’re gone I’m turning your room into a crafting paradise and getting rid of your cat” or you might wistfully imagine a day when there aren’t empty glasses, dirty socks, and various contents of their backpacks littering every surface and room of the house.
You begin mentally counting it down when they’re in about 8th grade: “Only four summers/birthdays left with her at home” and suddenly start paying closer attention to things like neighbors’ graduations and the Pottery Barn Teen dorm room catalog. As they begin high school and occasionally have moments that are as challenging as when they were toddlers, you might even wish for it to come sooner.
Much like when they were babies and the vision of putting them on that big yellow school bus all by themselves seemed not only an eternity away but was so painful of a thought that it knocked the wind out of you, you put it out of your mind.
Until it happens.
I’m getting ahead of myself, I realize. My older daughter is still living under our roof and will be for the next nine months. She’s still getting yelled at for not emptying the cat box and for her room being a minefield of dirty (clean?) clothes. She’s still lying in her bed at 10 a.m. on weekend mornings watching Netflix and still lying on her stomach on the living room floor at 10 p.m. every night doing homework. She’s still here to give a tight hug to before she leaves for school.
She’s still here to kiss goodnight.
But as I’ve known—and admittedly, not believed—for 18 years, she’s not going to be here forever. As much as I might want to, I can’t stop time from passing. And as much as it hurts, it’s a piece of knowledge that it’s time to start facing.
Last week she had the first real ending of her senior year, the first one that meant something, anyway. She closed her final fall musical, and I think even she felt the significance. On Instagram she posted a photo of the brick she signed on the theatre’s senior wall with the list of shows she’s performed in, her graduation year and the name of the college she’s attending,
and it became real, real fast. She participated in all the last traditions—last opening night, last curtain call, last cast party. And ironically, this is just the beginning.
The beginning of the endings, if you will.
In the coming months there will be more, all coming at us so fast we’ll still be spinning when it’s time for her to pack up and leave for college, which will bring with it a whole host of excruciating endings and exciting beginnings. We’ve already experienced one. A few weeks ago when she received the email telling her she’d been accepted into her top college choice, the entire family screamed and laughed and jumped up and down in a group hug for about five minutes. There may or may not have been dancing, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t tears. Happy tears, proud tears, and certainly, a few bittersweet ones as well.
And you know what hit me (besides a reality I’ve avoided since she was born)? While we are starting to face the endings to so many things, this time is also the beginning. The beginning of things that, like it or not, are starting to come as fast as the endings are. The beginnings that might help balance the endings out and—although it may be hard to believe—make some of them a little more bearable.