Last year I wrote a piece for my blog on Chicago Parent discussing the Been There, Done That Fairy Mom-mother. Essentially, being a young mother has enabled me to experience everything first, before my friends, without any go-to mom to glean sage advice. I just had a few teary-eyed calls this week that reminded me of this article and made me wish for that fairy all over again.
My friends, now parents of seniors in high school, are experiencing the beginning of the grieving process as they watch their oldest get ready to leave the nest. By far one of the hardest years of my life, I can honestly say it does get better. But, it isn’t easy to go through. And, you are going to need your friends. And, tissues. Lots of tissues.
Last year, when I was stuck in the muck of it I just wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Then, I cried. Then, I wrote some more. I wrote so much he asked me to please stop writing about him so much.
So, I did.
If only I had someone to go to, to ask if it would get better, to assure me that my child’s really going to be okay – more than okay. And, that yes, I could eventually walk around without feeling like my right arm had been cut off.
So, here I am my Senior Parent friends, to tell you: Not only will you get through this year, and the next, you and your oldest will thrive. It is an amazing moment when you look at your child and realize – they are their own person and that person is pretty fantastic.
Perhaps because of you, perhaps despite you.
You overthink it, you come up with every anxious scenario how they will be absolutely be lost without you there to guide them. But, then you realize, in time, and with those darn tissues, that they can guide themselves pretty well and know how to get in touch if/when they can’t.
You insist you know their path best, you have it all mapped out in your head. The school abroad or the college, the majors, the lifestyle, the food plan. But, then they eat what they want, go where they go and do what they do:
Since last year I did in fact locate a few Been There, Done That Moms and here’s what we’ve put together to share. We cannot say we successfully did all of these, but wish at the time that we had this list in advance:
Express your vision, then hear theirs One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to listen. Let them feel heard because this process is damn hard. Take the time to express what you want for their future, where you see them and how they can get there. That is valuable information. Then, shut up and listen to how they see their own. This is even more valuable information.
There will be loud discussions – Part of leaving home is prepping a long time for that big day of goodbye. It’s a lot of emotions and a heck of a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time. They’re stressed, you’re stressed. So, talk and try not to let it escalate too much – but, be understanding if and when (oh, it will) gets loud.
Push and they will push back harder – You want one thing, they want another. It’s totally normal in the process. If you push one school, or insist on something because “I’m paying” the chances of them wanting that are now greatly reduced just to piss you off. Ultimately, they have to go to class, earn the grades and have a future. If it’s all controlled by you – it will not go well.
Let this be their future, not yours – Some moms shared with me that they unknowingly tried to live out their dreams through their children. This seemed more prevalent in those I talked to with moms and daughters, but I have no hard evidence of that. This is not the time to live out your dreams, its time to let the kids figure out what they want.
Deny, Deny, Deny My go-to coping mechanism of choice was to live in the lovely land of denial. But, then it does really happen. They really leave. And it seriously sucks. But, then they will come back to visit or oddly you go to visit them (and feed them).
Don’t freak when they make a mistake I did this. Whoops. It was bad. I expected perfection and what I got was human. Nothing, short of life and death, is that bad. Let them F it up so they can learn and grow and figure it out for themselves.
Just like we had to.
There is a mean part of parenting no one tells you at the beginning when they hand you that bundle of smooshy cuteness. That is that one day you will be totally caught off-guard, by a surprise so big, so great and overwhelming nothing (not even ice cream and oh, I tried) can make it better. Until, suddenly you just move forward organically into the next stage.
Adultish (?) parenting.
I am still learning exactly what this next part of parenting means when I still pay for bills, and dole out spending money, but we’re learning to navigate the territory. Part coach, part friend, part parent, part nothing but a text at times and part in awe of what G-d let me have a hand in making – it’s weird, awesome and terrifying all at the same time.
No, I do not have my been there, done that Mom to guide me around the ropes of all of this. But, I hope I’m doing okay so far…So saddle up Senior Moms, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime.