Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Parting Is So Sweet. (Sorry)

When my kids were little, I couldn't imagine life without them. Sure, I could (and often did) imagine going to the bathroom without them, but those were more temporary breaks that all mothers of young ones need from time to time.

But now that they are getting older, I actually can (and often do) imagine life without them. At least, daily life. And I admit I kind of like it. But now I'm starting to wonder if I should keep that to myself.

This week, a few friends' kids went away on trips and their parents mentioned how much they missed them. And here I sat, not musing about where my son is and what he's doing, but excited to be spring cleaning and making piles of things to donate. I admit I felt a bit down when I passed his empty room around bedtime, but it passed when I went downstairs and gazed longingly at the piles of stuff I want to get rid of but can't until the kids are gone.

Is this just a gosh-this-endless-winter-is-almost-over-I-feel-like-simplifying fantasy? I admit for weeks I've had a need for open windows and springtime air, light, warmth and a clutter-free home. After being trapped in the house with kids for days on end, week after week throughout the last few months, sunshine and quiet and time with my honey are at the top of my must-have list now. So when my oldest left for an educational tour abroad and my youngest headed for a day-long outing with friends, was it just cabin fever that made me do a happy dance? For six whole hours, I pretended we were empty nesters and IT FELT GREAT.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids and I love spending time with them. But being an individual myself, with passions and drive and goals, I really, really like not having to think about their needs sometimes. Remember when you could eat a bowl of cereal for dinner if you wanted because you were working on a chapter or some edits and you just didn't want to stop and cook? I miss that. Remember when you could stay up until two or three a.m. to finish a great book because you didn't have to get up in the morning and drive someone somewhere or pack their lunch or make sure they ate breakfast and brushed their teeth? I miss that too.

I miss being an individual. Not that I miss it more than I love my kids. But when I get a glimpse of a life that is my own, it's a great reminder to keep encouraging my kids to build lives that are their own, to pursue their passions and figure out what they want. When they go off on adventures and are comfortable exploring the world, they are trying out their wings while at the same time looking forward to coming home and telling us all about it. It means we're doing our job as parents, and that they see themselves as individuals too, separate from us. It also shows me they're confident in making decisions without me standing there "in case they need me" as I did when they were younger.

I owe this budding independence to my husband, one of a family of three boys. I was drawn to his self-sufficient nature. But for years I also fought him as he insisted I back off and stop doing everything for the kids. I knew they needed to learn how to do things themselves, but it had also been my job for so long, I didn't know how to stop doing it. But I did. I let go, consciously, little by little, and they stepped up. Not only did it teach them how to do for themselves, it reminded me how great it is to watch them learn to do things without me.

Of course it proved my husband was right. Not that I'd ever tell him so. Well, maybe I will when the kids are grown and gone. Then, I won't just tell him, I'll thank him.


ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Amen to having some time to yourself - or at least without the kids. Sure, I miss my kids if they are gone longer than a couple of days, but only in a vague way, you know? Sometimes I think parents feel guilty about that, but I think that's a shame because you're right - this is what your kids are supposed to do - what you've raised them to do. Enjoy the flexible time!

Kristen In London said...

Christine, it IS amazing that we are totally on the same path here. Having an only child means I have had just this one shot at it all, and I do treasure every day (if not always every moment!). But you're right that we will pick up pieces of ourselves that we forgot about (that reading until 3 am. sounds SO good!). Yesterday we had a mammoth Easter dinner at about 3, and it felt so liberating to have an 18-year-old in the house at 8 p.m. who thought that a dish of olives was a PERFECT dinner! Go for it, your nutrition is almost not my job anymore! Let's keep each other company on this new path.

Christine Adler said...

Ha! Kristen, you are absolutely right--it IS liberating to be working ourselves out of this job! Kind of the whole point of parenting too, right? :D