I dragged myself out of bed this morning and, like the walking dead, stumbled and lurched my way to Starbucks. If I have to give up my wine,(which is another story for another time) I am at least going to have my caffeine. You may recall I wrote about my bookstore moment before my oldest went away to college. Book Store Moment
Today, I had a Starbucks moment.
Today I found the tears overtake me, without warning, as I stood beside a young father cradling his one year old boy. The boy’s chubby arms and puffy hands were tangled around his father’s neck. The flawless skin of his fragile, sweet face brought a well of emotion I did not see coming. I couldn’t help myself from staring; long enough to make the dad uncomfortable. Though I was close enough to touch that sweet boy’s face – that face with those tiny, perfect lips that one year olds have- I couldn’t reach out and touch the memories of my own boys at that age. I tried desperately to see their own fresh, innocent faces. To hold the memory of their perfectly shaped lips and cheeks. To feel their chubby arms and puffy little fingers around my neck.
Now I am the one with the chubby arms and puffy hands.
And I am three weeks away from sending my last, once fresh faced one year old, to college. It will be the first time in 19 years that I won’t see his now scruffy, handsome face and muscular arms every day.
I have spent the last 26 years in the trenches of parenting. The whole of my days were spent preparing them to one day be independent of me. And now that I am about to be alone and the weight of daily parenting is done, I realize I may have prepared them but I have not properly prepared myself.
I have raised them to be independent of me; but I am quickly realizing I have not raised myself to be independent of them.
Not only will I have to spend the next three weeks getting a crash course on how to reset the modem when the internet goes out, learn how to work the remote to get to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and figure out how to get the wireless printer to work; I am painfully aware that I now must figure out how to be something other than the person responsible for the dailyness of raising three boys to men.
I know I will relish the quiet for a while. When they were young, as a single mom, I would have given anything to have a moment alone to escape the weight of my responsibilities. Now I will have what I always longed for. But then what?
What does independent of my boys look and feel like? I still have years before they all are financially independent of me, and I know I will never stop worrying about their well being, but the days of being involved in every area of their life are done; the daily grind of parenting is behind me.
But this is not the part of the story when I tell you moms of young ones to savor every moment because one day they will leave you. I won’t ever say that. Those days of young ones are hard! And exhausting. And did I mention hard?
Nope this is the part of the story where I tell you to hang in there because they grow to be amazing adults. Their squishy, messy hands and faces will become strong and independent. The things you love about your little ones will be the things you savor about them as adults. The things that frustrate the heck out of you now will one day become their strengths. I am not going to lie though. I have learned the hard truth of “little people, little problems; big people, big problems” So keep it all in perspective.
No, This is the part of the story where I say burn those memories of their precious faces in your mind.
Stare at them now; not longingly at someone else’s kid 20 years from now.
And begin to prepare yourself for independence – yours, as well as theirs.
I’ve read the articles that tell me to get a hobby. To travel. To find a worthy cause. To find my passion.
But none of them tell me how to stop the ache in my heart.
None of them tell me how to be me without them.
I am confident I will figure it out sooner or later. And I am sure that between cussing because I can’t get the printer to work, and complaining that no one is here to take the trash out, and feeling sorry for myself that I am alone, I will eventually find my new independent me.
But, I still reserve the right to stare too long at your babies and toddlers.