“So I don’t know whether I should go there or have them pick me up. What do you think?”
My daughter was lying next to me talking about her plans for the weekend.
“Sounds great,” I replied, off in my own little world.
“You’re doing it again! You’re not even listening!” she said, exasperated.
She was right. I wasn’t listening and I felt terrible about it. The fact was, my mind was on other things and had been since the kids returned from university for the summer.
This was unusual for a woman who for the last twenty-one years thought of nothing other than her family: what they were doing, what they were feeling, what they were needing.
A strange thing happened when they both left for school last fall; suddenly I had time. Time to think about what I was feeling and what I needed. Life didn’t stop for me when they left, but it did change. I changed, and it didn’t take them long to notice once they returned home.
Don’t get me wrong, my children are, and always will be a priority, but growing pains are inevitable, and right now it’s me who’s suffering from them. I call them ‘growing older pains’.
I’ve adjusted to the fact that my children, now adults, no longer need my input. I’m confident in the job I’ve done as a mother and even more confident in the choices they make. But where this leaves me, I haven’t quite figured out.
Although my children were never forgotten, my thoughts did turn to other things when they left last fall. I was dealing with downsizing at work and the financial and emotional ramifications it caused. I was also coping with aging parents and the emotional turmoil that came along with it. I watched helplessly, as the failing economy and illness took hold of people close to me.
I made some new friends and distanced myself from a few others. I reconnected with people from my past. I started focusing on my health and socializing more often. My husband and I reconnected after years of being pulled in many directions. And with the encouragement of a friend, I started to write.
When my son and daughter returned for the summer things changed again. Battles over the car, friends coming and going at all hours and ever-changing schedules resulting in little sleep for anyone. The kitchen was open 24/7, and I decided early on to close their bedroom doors rather than look at the heap of clothes that littered their floors.
There were times emotions ran high; my daughter coping with her long-distance boyfriend and my son breaking up with his girlfriend, not once, but twice.
And me? Well, I was dealing with my own issues and emotions. The only person who seemed unaffected was my husband. Except for a lack of sleep, which he lamented about often, he was just happy to be here. No students for two months!
I will say our house came alive when the kids returned, but I have to admit, I’m ready for a return to normal.
I never imagined the day when ‘normal’, would be a house without kids. But time moves on, things change; children grow up and we grow older. That’s where ‘growing pains’ come in.
My daughter, tired of my daydreaming, said something about making a phone call, got up and left the room.
I lay there envisioning what the next few weeks would be like once they returned to school. There would be time for gardening, writing, drawing, and entertaining. There would be dinners for two, and a clean house again. There would be uninterrupted sleep, and no fighting for a vehicle.
But it’s all bittersweet; things I look forward to, and yet things I’ll miss. No more long walks and talks with my daughter. No more hilarious stories during dinner about my son’s day at work. The phone will ring less often and there will no longer be unfamiliar teens scrounging through my fridge. There will be no more laughter and music coming from the backyard as teenagers converge. There will be no more evenings of sitting on the porch, watching my husband shoot hoops with the kids.
My son passed by the bedroom door.
“What time do you work?” I hollered.
“That’s the second time you’ve asked me mom, and it’s not even ten o’clock yet,” he lamented.
“Sorry,” I replied, kicking myself. I do listen, I just have trouble remembering.”
He went downstairs and sat at the piano, incredibly gifted, melancholy music filling the air. Just one more thing I’ll miss.
My eyes filled with tears. They’d be returning to university in less than a week. Where had the summer gone and why hadn’t I spent more time with them? How had I allowed myself to become so distracted by other things, when they were home? Why hadn’t I listened more?
I hate melancholy. I refuse to do melancholy. I jumped up, grabbed my gym bag and announced I was going to work out.
When next week comes, and it’s time to say goodbye, I’ll kiss both the kids and hug them extra tight. I’ll be excited for them and the wonderful things that lay ahead. I’ll smile and wave goodbye, trusting they’re in God’s hands. And if I feel tears, I’ll hold off until their car rounds the corner.I’ll remind myself that what I’m experiencing are, ‘growing older pains.’ And just like the summer, they’ll be gone before I know it.