Tomorrow is the first day of school for our county and I find myself moving towards it with a sense of sad trepidation. My son is a junior in high school this year. My baby boy, the last one. It has been 16 years since I had to take just one child to school. SIXTEEN YEARS!! I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be feeling about this, but if joy is one of the emotions, I am sorely lacking.
I have learned from his older sisters how very fast these next two years will go, and I am not prepared. I feel as though I am hanging on to sand with clenched fists and yet the grains are sliding through my fingers all the same.
It’s a strange place to be, closing in on that proverbial empty nest. You know it comes one day, but you lose sight of it in the day to day business of raising kids. That “one day” suddenly becomes very far away and allusive. I liked it there – some place in the far-off future of eventualities.
I loved being a mommy. Even the bad, crazy, sleep deprived days – I loved it all because I knew it was temporary. From the very first moment I was told I held life in my body I recognized how precious these years would be and that it would eventually disappear into a blurred memory. I was right. The things I thought I’d never forget have sadly faded. I can’t recall that wonderful scent of a freshly bathed baby, or how their little hands felt folded neatly in mine, or the sound of their high pitched voice as they regaled me with a story. There are images, but the senses of the moment disappear. It’s as if you’re viewing the past 21 years in a two second montage of silent film.
Just like that, I went from starting my family, to raising my family, to this is it. Two in college, one in high school – we are here, at the end. Though I still provide for them, the roles have shifted and I find myself wondering where do I fit into their new life? Where do I belong? What comes next? I’m somewhat at a loss on how to be a mother of three young adults. I think in the sadness of losing my babies is an underlying fear of what happens to me.
I have officially become a victim of Empty Nest Syndrome.
When you’re a kid, you plan for the future. People come up and ask you what you want to be when you grow up and then you spend the rest of your youth working towards that goal. Eventually, you add other things into your plans – for me it was getting married and having a family (for the record, neither of those were my original plan). For the next 18 years you focus on surviving raising that kid, planning family vacations and holidays, moving from one school year to the next. Then BAM!!! You’re at the end.
I didn’t plan past that. I didn’t dream of a life separate from my family. Though I have things outside of my kids – work, writing – I don’t really have a life outside of them. Some people have told me that now I can look forward to grandkids, but I don’t want grandkids – I want MY kids.
Though I celebrate their milestones and success, smile at their dreams coming true, I also see their growing independence of me. I see young adults who are learning to navigate the world without needing to hold my hand. They AMAZE me! Kids are truly fascinating creatures. Laced with my sadness is pride for the individuals they have become.
I wish there were some words of wisdom I could pass along to other moms going through this, but this is new territory for me. I guess in the end, all we can do is move forward and be present in each and every moment we have with our children and embrace the life that is before us.
And remember, nobody is ever too old for a hug.