Shortly after my daughter’s sixteenth birthday party, my oldest son and I loaded the last few items into his car and headed out on the long journey to college.
I must say, a little worry tugged at me.
You see, he inherited my stubborn and self-willed genetic traits.
What if we don’t get along? How are we going to survive two days cooped up in his small car?
My concerns were for naught, though. Pleasant conversation filled our days, and the one or two serious, tension-based discussions ended in compromise.
We settled him in, fulfilled his last-minute requirements and purchased groceries.
I felt confident when he dropped me at the airport terminal. The watery film coating my eyes, as I hugged him tightly to me, was mostly that of happy tears.
Mommy’s work—so to speak, for I haven’t been called mommyin countless years—is done.
A new phase of our relationship is upon us.
“How are ya holdin’ up, Mom?” “Are you a nervous wreck, yet?” “I don’t think I could stand it.”
These are a few of the statements other moms have made to since hearing that my son would be attending college some twenty-three hours from home.
“He’s ready.” I’ve replied, “It’s time for him to go. It’s time for him to spread his wings, continue learning his own life lessons, and share his talents with the rest of the world.”
Maybe it’s denial but I don’t think so.
A late birthday, he’s eighteen-and-a-half, “almost nineteen,” as he’s been saying since the day after his last birthday.
And he’s raring to go. Like most young adults, he “can live on my own if I want,” and “doesn’t need a curfew,” and doesn’t “need you telling me what to do.”
Me? I’m a classic, Type-A personality and a planner. Need I say more?
Truly, though, it’s not like you might imagine.
We all hear tales of parents and children screaming at the top of their lungs at each other, of doors being slammed on a regular basis.
Our life pales in comparison. Our heated disagreements are random, and relatively few.
Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to let him go.
I don’t have regrets.
Sure I have fleeting fears, Have I done enough? What if he screws up, and I’m not there to help him?
I believe those to be a normal part of the letting go process.
But, honestly, I don’t wish for more time.
I believe I’ve prepared him the best I can, that my husband and I have guided him in the best direction possible, regardless of the circumstances that have crossed our life’s paths.
Speaking of life’s path, I continue moving forward in my own.
I don’t fear the empty space that will be created—that has been created—by his vacancy from our home.
Maybe that is in part that he is the first of three to leave home.
I happily waved my oldest two off to their first day of school, while mist filled my eyes as my youngest trotted off with his siblings to the bus stop, on his first day of pre-school.
I think, though, the larger reason I don’t feel bereft is that I’m planning my own future.
I finally know what Iwant to be when I grow up.
A person who inspires others, through words and ideas.
My heart has known all along, I simply didn’t realize it until my children were active, until my life was in chaos.
Restructuring my entire routine, and that of my young family, would have been too taxing on my already burgeoning schedule, too stressful on my already trauma-and-tension-filled days.
I had too many issues to resolve, and deemed my role as Mom paramount.
Marriage and family counselors will advise you to plan Couple Time, time when you can nurture the partnership.
Dinners, movies, walks…ten, fifteen, thirty minutes or an entire weekend. It doesn’t matter as long as you are taking time for two.
Between the business, the family, and the losses tossed in our paths, we struggled, as many couples do, to complete tasks that needed to be done on a daily basis.
We frequently failed to take time for the two of us.
But as our children have matured, as my husband and I have grown in our own lives, we’ve tried to be mindful of those necessities.
Marriage and family counselors will also advise you to plan Me Time, time when you can nurture your own dreams, goals, and needs.
“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.” “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have nothing left for anyone else.”
I, like many other women, failed to recognize the importance of the advice, to take these clichés seriously.
I haven’t been the best of role models in the taking-care-of-you department. But, I have been aware, and I’ve been trying to incorporate these habits into my existence.
I’ve been paying closer attention to my needs, and working to include my goals and dreams into my daily life.
I’ve gradually added more and more writing into each year.
I’ve placed myself in environments and activities where I could promote a passion for communication and language.
I audited a creative writing class.
I established a local writers’ group. When the other key members moved away, I dissolved it and joined a book club.
I worked as librarian for a primary school, where I encouraged a group of third graders to submit a story to Scholastic’s Kids Are Authors program, and I mentored them through the process.
I participated in poetry workshops.
I created a training series, and taught two seventh-grade classes how to add creative expression and voice to their writing.
I have said numerous times this past year that I am preparing my nest.
My hope is that I will be able to spend these next years building the foundation, the platform that will help me reach my ultimate goals.
As my children leave our home, I can celebrate all of our new beginnings.
“No empty nest for me. I’m going to step right into the new life I’m creating.”
“You are fortunate that you’ve always done what you enjoy,” I recently said to my husband.
Even though I recall lying on my sidewalk, soaking up the sun and dreaming about being the world’s youngest author, I never believed writing to be a way of life, a means of making a living.
Writing was something one did in their spare time for pleasure. And though I have experienced fleeting moments of wondering where my life would be today, if I’d pursued publication at a young age, I have no remorse.
For me, every experience is a story that sits patiently, waiting to be told…