A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
My friend has had five beers and it’s the middle of the afternoon. She’s texting me about how her son’s collecting college applications and she’s going to lose him in two years, like he’s terminally ill. I remind her she has a younger daughter and she replies, She’s fifteen and hates me. Her mournful texts are timely; my teenager is at sleep-away camp for the first time and half my bookclub is preparing to send freshmen to college. I’m surrounded by women missing children.
Motherhood—packed with small annoyances and joys crammed into frazzled moments, which early on seem will never end. We collect remembrances along the way: favorite baby outfits, increasingly skilled artwork, medals from games played, hard drives full of photos. We swear we’ll never forget how it feels to hold our sleeping nine-month-old or our five-year-old’s sweet voice before hormones kick in. And yet, these declarations and stockpiled memories never quite add up to being immersed in a particular stage of parenthood.
A couple years ago, our family went to a neighborhood party where all the other couples had small children. Conversation stammered in bits and pieces, while they zoomed over to catch their toddlers from a tumble, end an argument, or clean a spill. It was like waking up in a Twilight Zone episode. I knew we used to be exactly like those other parents, but I could no longer relate. People with older kids had warned me during my toddler-rearing years—the worry never ends, it only changes focus. You trade in baby gates and outlet covers for driving lessons, safe sex talks, and lectures on how grades affect opportunities.
I understand my friend’s panicky texts. That first day we dropped our son off at camp, I imagined every second of his schedule: he’s eating lunch now, he’s at career assessment now. I texted him more times than he responded—a foreshadowing of the day when I’ll be putting sheets on his dorm bed, hugging him goodbye at the door, and not returning in a week to bring him home.
When my youngest started kindergarten four years ago, I drove him to school and sped off to a creative writing class at a community college. This became the first class of many and writing eventually saved me from depression, a burgeoning emptiness already shaping even as my last entered elementary school. Writing filled me with purpose and presented goals not connected to my role as a parent. I began to rediscover my own self-reliance while encouraging my kids to grow their own.
Today, I rearranged my bookshelves in alphabetical order, taking time to cradle small things I love—remembering stories I thought I’d forgotten. While the missing-my-children phase looms closer each year, I’ve realized this, too, is just another stage of parenthood and being a parent lasts forever. Until that day I drop my first kid at college, I’m going to cherish the daily annoyances; soon I’ll be the one testing his patience with slightly needy phone calls.
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