Hey, you knew this was coming. An emotionally charged post chock full of memories about my little girls growing up and finding their stride as they take wing toward new horizons, ready for life’s adventures… something that will leave you drained and waterlogged as you think back to your own first recollection of tiny hands and feet, first words and wonderment.
I’m here to weigh the real pros and cons of that moment when your oldest child has a wonderful life far away and then you drop your baby off on a college campus and go home alone. All right, fine – in my case there is still S. Spouse. Yup.
Pro: Our water bill will have a reprieve from our average of 238 gallons.
Per day. That is not a typo.
Con: I won’t have anyone to smell the body soap with me in Wal-Mart anymore.
Pro: I can plan on fish (or beef… or anything that isn’t chicken, salad, pizza, pancakes, and the three other things YK eats) for dinner.
Con: I like pancakes for dinner.
Pro: Less laundry.
Con: Less help with laundry.
Pro: I can listen to the stations I like on the car radio when I’m alone.
Con: It’s not as much fun singing along to Hunter Hayes when I’m alone.
Pro: We love spending time with OK and The Boy in Philly, and now that YK is not far from them it gives us double the reason to visit.
Con: So far this year we’ve seen them a total of 12 days. Shoot... now I’m sad.
Pro: The dog is happier to see me now that I’m usually the first one home.
Con: YK’s cat has made my side of the bed her new sleeping area. I mean – my whole side of the bed.
Pro: We can have grownup friends over.
Con: We have to clean the house.
Pro: We don’t have to be quiet in the morning.
Con: S seems to think this means he can talk to me in the morning.
Pro: OK took to a big city as if she’s always lived there (much like I took to living in Maine), and YK’s first week of college has been an amazingly smooth ride so far.
Con: My kids don’t need me so much anymore. How did this happen? Weren’t they 12 years old just yesterday??
Here’s the thing.
When OK made the move to Philadelphia I began to feel restless in my own skin. I needed to change something. It was soon after that when I started to get serious about losing a bunch of weight. It’s been a satisfying journey of learning self worth, which is ironic because it took watching my oldest child believing she could do what she set out to do before I realized I hadn’t been practicing what I was preaching all those years. It was time, and it was possible to set a goal and achieve it.
Now with YK also gone, that restlessness has returned, but in a different way. A new goal is being set, a new path struck. Like many parents out there this week especially, we want our kids to be happy – that’s the bottom line. We want them to find their way and believe they are valuable human beings. Sometimes we get a little lost in the parenting shuffle and forget to do that for ourselves. So I have a wish for anyone who is facing these same changes.
My wish is that change sweeps you up, spins you around and dumps you off in the middle of an unknown path. My wish is that you once again learn to dig in the mud, become curious (and even a little overwhelmed), clear the cobwebs that may have formed on your dreams. My wish is that you believe it is not too late to pursue at least some part of them. Even though financially things may be tougher with impending college tuition, and even though this change may mean you have to fill a void that was left when that extra helping hand left and your time seems shorter now, I honestly believe your child’s flight does not have to ground you. All right – I don’t know your circumstances. Let me just clarify: I believe my child’s flight does not have to ground me.
You don’t have to go back to school (though I must give a shout-out to CG - a friend, also a new empty nester, and fellow cancer survivor – who is doing just that – you go, girl!!), or change your job, or move, or begin - or even end - a relationship to have change. Just see something in yourself that maybe got put aside for a while… like… at least 18 years. Maybe you want to and can do one of those things I just mentioned. Maybe you can paint a room and feel accomplished, or write a poem and feel accomplished, or remember to pick up milk and feel accomplished (come on, some days are like that, you know it). It doesn’t matter what you or I do. It matters how we feel about what we do.
I expect you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming months. This thing – this crowing with pride and complaining, laughing, crying, and sighing I do with each line I write - fulfills me more than anything I have ever accomplished or even attempted, outside of motherhood. And I’m going to pursue it in as many ways as possible. I am a storyteller, a comic, a mild cynic, a mess of emotion at times, a partner in crime with the same (crazy) man going on 30 years, and no matter how old my children are or how far they roam, I will remain a Mom of Many Words.
Now let’s see what you’ve got.