Two years ago I packed up my youngest child and moved him into his college dorm for freshman year. His two older siblings had already moved out and on their own. THIS was the moment I’d been waiting years for. THIS was the moment I could eat ice cream naked in the living room, disappear on last minute trips without worrying about mouths to feed, and have….um, well maybe we’ll leave that one unsaid…..
Upon fleeing the nest, they soared beautifully.
As I found myself without them, I fell colossally.
I had been tirelessly climbing and chasing this peak for years yet once I cleared the summit I plummeted face first off the sheer drop I had never seen coming. It snuck up on me so fast and unsuspecting I was left feeling like Wile E. Coyote, feet scrambling mid-air until I looked down and crash landed like a five-hundred pound grand piano. The splintery pieces of my life went flying far and wide and instead of fumbling about trying to collect them and glue them together I hunkered down, frozen in place. It took me MANY months to get moving again, so long that the Roadrunner gave up running by yelling “meep, meep”.
For all of you just embarking on this journey, I wish you luck. If you are handling it fine, rock on! I am in awe of your ability to have developed or maintained an identity for yourself outside of that of “parent”. Maybe you are having a good laugh at me wondering how the hell I didn’t and so be it, I will take my digs when deserved. In retrospect it may have been my single parent circumstances, but I don’t think so. I think my generation of parent, the ones raised by working moms, the rise of divorced and absent parents, and the latch key kids have been determined to raise our children differently. Although the term “helicopter parent” could be inserted here I refuse to call myself that because had I “helicoptered” my children too much, they would not have taken those first steps out of the nest as independently and adequately as they did and continue to soar fairly brilliantly. Short of being able to cook without causing the smoke detectors to go off, they were prepared. Me? I only wish someone had prepared me as well.
My children were my world for twenty years. I home-schooled them until my oldest entered fourth grade. Up until that time we spent pretty much every waking moment together. As they entered traditional schools I went to every open house (OK….disclaimer here: I MAY have missed one during my youngest child’s senior year. I was just oh, so very tired by then and he was an exceptional student and I knew all of the teachers after six years in the school system. Legit excuse, right? Figured I’d mention because he will remind me of that and about how I missed the one time he played Midi in a lacrosse game in 8th grade). I went to almost every sports event and there were many. Many, many! Games, tournaments, off-season leagues, and camps. I think I have spent more hours driving to sporting events in my life than I have sleeping (totally not exaggerating)! Before they had licenses and cars I ferried them to middle school dances, youth group, and wherever else they wanted or needed to go. I made dinner for them and their friends as they got ready for Prom. We apple picked, we hiked, we went to the mall, we vacationed together. Please do not think I am piling this all on to brag about what an amazing parent I was, I was not. I was literally a parasite on their social lives during their high school years. I wasn’t even close to being the “cool” mom, on the contrary I was incredibly strict with them. I made mistakes. My daughter may have told me she hated me during her last week of her senior year when I didn’t allow her to stay for a Taoi Cruz concert because it was on a week night and she had school the next day. Yup, I did. In retrospect I do wish I’d let her go, but hey I’ve gotta celebrate and live my life, right?
During those years when asked who I was my answer was typically “Drew, Pember, or Matt’s mom” depending on the circumstances. The moment they walked out my front door for the last time as an occupant of our house that changed. The “work” of being their mom ceased abruptly and left me wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with myself. I tried the whole eating ice cream naked in the living room thing, but it just didn’t give me the thrill I once thought it would. So after that monumental flop of an adventure, where do you go? You go a little crazy. You stay in your pajamas for days and watch twelve seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in five weeks. You have panic attacks in the grocery store because someone got too close to your cart. You wonder who the hell you are if you are not your children’s mother anymore. It seems so silly I know, but those thoughts were devastating to me. They don’t need you. They are adults now. There are no clothes to wash or dinner to make for a hoard of people. So you stop doing those things. That alone has been the hardest thing I’ve faced in my life and trust me I’ve faced some shitty stuff. I felt stripped of my very existence. After months of hobbling around like a tear-soaked, emotional, hot mess I was able to get my head out of the fog and enter a store without leaving my cart mid-shopping and I began to figure out who “Me”, without the mom part, really was. I surrounded myself with the right people. I bought a house in the middle of woods. I kayaked and I hiked more. I found I liked meditation. I remembered how much I loved to write. It has taken me a year and a half to get here, but I like this “me”. She’s kinda fun and I never know what she’s going to do next. If you take out the work/corporate side of me I’m kind of a hippy-dippy girl that just wants peace, love, sunshine, and a quiet beautiful lake to kayak on.
Do I wish I hadn’t engrossed my life with my children and ended up where I did? No way, wouldn’t have changed a thing. I just wish I had been ready for that drop-off at the top. For those of you just cresting the hill you have been warned and hopefully this will inspire you to be more prepared than I was. Let time pass slowly and enjoy these last moments because just as having your children changed your life, having them grow up and fly changes it every bit as much.