When I was a young mother I realized that everything about parenting babies and small children is self-serving. We take their smiles as symbols of love, their firsts as our accomplishments for being great teachers, (their tantrums and misgivings of course we give them as their own) but, mostly these little people are all about the Me.
Yes, parenting is painstaking work and all, but come on – we do it because at the end of the day it feels great to create great people. We live from their science fair win to their graduation honor to their last second 3-pointer. We become sad when they lose because in someway we’ve lost too.
Then, we plan out their lives. So and so will be a dancer, because she’s so graceful. This one will be a doctor, for sure, because science is his thing. That one will be an artist or an architect because of her drawing ability. We stereotype them, we marry them off in grand weddings, we dream up high hopes.
So, now I am faced with a house full of reality. My oldest, just about to start his senior year and my next in line about to be a freshman in high school, have painfully opened my eyes to the fact that no, in fact these little people are not about ME, they are very much about THEM and creating lives of their own. At first, this had me panicked to pack in the life skills quick. I suddenly wanted to teach my son laundry and cooking and budgeting and just about anything I could cram into the 12 months we have left together. But, then I read a great book and had a life-changing experience.
First, the book.
Katrina Kennison, a passionate, beautiful writer, wrote about the perils of becoming an empty nester in her book, The Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment. While I am far from an empty nester, I do have to recalibrate our family, as our 1 boy will be leaving our coop in a short while.
Going from a household of girls and a boy to a household of all girls seems kind of strange. It changes our activities, our conversations and pretty much the entire dynamic for my poor husband – the lone testosterone-carrying guy in the house.
What I did relate to tremendously in Katrina’s book was the need to accept what we cannot change and change regardless. I began to understand that no matter what I wanted for my children’s futures wasn’t going to happen. It was about to be all about what they want and need.
And now, that life-changing experience I promised.
This past summer, my son spent 5 weeks in Poland, Denmark and Israel. While he was going through a spiritual and personal transformation, we at home were going through the same. Having just the girls around at first seemed odd. No guitar, no man voice about the house, no one asking for the keys to the car and no more late night wait ups for someone to walk in. My oldest daughter and I were suddenly opened up for more open talks as I was reminded of a time where teenage tension did not always exist between those over 13. My 10-year-old daughter and I were able to plan excursions that appealed to both my older two and my youngest, still in nursery. No cranky 17 year old joined us, rolling his eyes or looking for an excuse not to come. At first, I felt guilty enjoying life while he wasn’t a part of our ‘unit’. But, then I saw photos of the amazing time he was having and I knew where he would rather be at that moment.
When he returned from his trip and shared his amazing experiences, I realized something vital. Having children is NOT about me at all. I was sitting across from a developing adult, a person whose thoughts and emotions on life were just as mature as my own, if not more so. In that moment I felt a strong sense of pride, still the selfish part of me, trying to take credit here. But, I was also feeling a new emotion for my child – admiration. Sometimes life catches you by surprise and readies you for something you didn’t even know you could ever be ready for…But, as we go through these transitions this year from high school to college, middle school to high school, elementary school to middle school and my youngest starting nursery – I am ready, they are ready and we’ve all done well.