The path that our kids choose is always something that affects us in ways we had no idea about before we were ourselves parents. The people I grew up with are in our fifties and so mostly our kids are in their twenties or headed that way. We thought getting through middle school hoop was hard, than realized high school was an even bigger challenge. I cannot even think about the stress of getting into college or deciding on a way to make a living. Alas, all of that seems pretty damn easy as a parent, compared to their journey as independent adults. Sometimes it seems the time went so fast between sending them off to Kindergarten to listening to them talk about paying utility bills and true love. It’s hard to say which milestone I’d freeze if I could halt time.
I taught and was an admin in middle school for many years , so I was not as shocked by the intensity of mood swings and teen angst that some friends had been. Their sweet son or daughter went from innocent, loving people pleasing humans to crazy, unpredictable seemingly psychopathic beings. And although I had a better idea than most of what was coming, I clearly remember days in tears, thinking I had obviously done something metabolically to my child ‘s mental stability because I drank that glass of champagne in month 6 of my pregnancy at a wedding I had attended . Then before I knew it, they would morph back into my sweet child for pinches of time, reminding me that I had indeed given birth to them and the hospital had not mixed them up with a serial killer’s offspring. It was hard to learn to contain opinions and let my children face hurdles I could have made easier. Three years of middle school as a Mom, made me appreciate the battle worn look so many of the parents sitting in my office often had. Alas, even the most stereotypical “ perfect” child has moments in the middle years where you have to blink twice to contemplate if it is your genetics standing before you or Satan’s Spawn. You are so glad when it’s time for high school, hoping in spite of impending dread of driving and dating“, that life will be on a more even keel.
Again, my career had a few times put me into a high school setting; I was sure I was ready. That went out the window the first week of drama in band camp, followed on the heels of 9th grade parent orientation, that had me near ulcer level worry about if my kid was taking the classes to get him into the right college. That feeling never dulled in those four years, but was often muted by the chronic pain of the increasing demand as extra curricular taxi duty and a persistent open wallet. However, I wished for that when the extended complication of a first part time job and the anxiety of a learners driving permit became our reality. I clearly recall the first time I felt that priceless bond of my young adult trusting me with an intimate secret and wish I could forget the kind of helpless pain I felt, the first time they truly had their heart broken. I am not sure if I cried more than they did, but I was positive it took years off my life, worrying about if the fragile moment would ever pass. There was battles about curfew, wars about reserving family time and amazing moments of such pride, that the crayoned family portrait still hanging on my office wall, felt likely to be replaced with a Grammy, Nobel Prize or at least a Lamborghini for Mother’s Day. And God Bless the parent of a child in their Senior year, for which I am certain my grey hair largely rooted itself. Ten months of heart wrenching “ lasts”. The final football game, the end of marching band, last homecoming; it all has this ending scenario that makes watching the bus pull away for their first ride, feel like junior varsity parenting. Waiting to hear from a college, riding the chaos of AP testing and enduring the roller coaster of Prom, makes the finish line of graduation feel like the relief of your cruise ship pulling away from the dock. As this is just my blog of meandering thoughts during my travels, I won’t spend time or type on holding your breath that your child is not the one arrested during the somewhere rite of passage called Senior Week.
College is not for every human being and four consecutive years is lovely, but more often unlikely. So with each one, this was a different adventure in my role as a parent. So much of this time is about letting go enough, while finding the balance to be a kind of safety net. It was hard to figure out if that help is often just fiscal assistance or trying to find ways to continue to bridge a new evolved relationship. The first time they are not going to move home for Summer or they get an apartment that looks less like your hand me downs and more like a space that defines them, feels like a piece of your heart has permanently broken off. That doesn’t mean you aren’t proud. I have smiled through some marginally livable spots in neighborhoods that had crime rates that equated to my significant loss of sleep. These were years I found myself frequently biting my tongue and swallowing some helpful suggestions. It is a time that you start to see moments of having that sweet child from Elementary again; they have sporadic spurts of appreciation and occasional desires to spend time and have your attention. It feels like you might survive these many years of parenting as trial by fire.
I have to say that sitting here having the time to write down these things feels like nostalgic rewinding, but it also reminds me that we earned the time we have now. It makes me grateful for the friendships I had throughout raising our kids, where I could share the highs and lows of the crazy train. I wish that I had some awesome words of wisdom for those still in the midst of it, but I know listening when needed is a far better idea. It also reminds me that my job as a parent will continue to be the epicenter of who I am until my last breath. These days I look forward to phone calls that involve significant others and discussions about my own travels and our interests. They are not done becoming who they are, but I am pretty sure, neither am I. So although I regret not always appreciating moments as much as I could have, I don’t think I’d freeze time… there’s more ahead.