“I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.”
When my older two boys were young, Thursday nights were for pizza, Seinfeld and Friends, and Legos. When middle son was home this past Christmas break, “I’ll Be There for You” played more than once. More than ten times, actually. Tonight I am sitting at home alone (youngest is at show choir rehearsal), and I have 3,439,656 things I need to do. What am I doing? Getting teary and watching “Friends” reruns.
Let me be clear: I am not going to tell anyone that the days when my boys were young were the best days of my life, but they were fun, messy, screamy, muddy, happy, sandy, wet, teary, wordy, joyful, sleepless, soccer-filled, sad, book-lined, Barneyful, and those days went by all too fast. Now, I am the mother of three young men.
Do I miss their little boy days? Not really. How about those awkward pre-teen years? Nope. The struggling middle school and high school years? Not at all. All of those days define who they are now just as much they give shape to me. Perhaps now that our shared history centers around college breaks and text messages, I’m nostalgic. Maybe I just now have had a minute to catch my breath and realize that certain parts of our lives are over. And maybe I’m a little sad about that.
Don’t misunderstand. I am interested in the unique projects that eldest son is working on. I am happy that middle son is in college, doing well, and is busy if not stressed in his endeavors. Youngest son is in middle school, and he is blessedly in show choir rather than baseball. These are all good things.
As I think about the close my first half-century, I am forced to re-examine who I am and how I spend my time. Refusing invitations and staying home with the boys was easy for me. Clinging to every day of summer and winter and spring school breaks came naturally to all of us. Now, by and large, it’s just me, and I get to see whether or not I gave up the unessential or if I did, indeed, give up myself.
Having the time and freedom to be and develop myself is problematic and intoxicating. I know there are women who transition from being a mom of kids at home to a mom of college kids to grandma quite fluently – albeit not necessarily easily. In reality, I’m alone a lot – probably a little too much. The chaos of three sons has fled, replaced by the complacency of a jaded 14 year-old. Frustration sets in when I remind myself that I have only a few minutes until that kid goes off to do his own thing, too. But still, I’m exhilarated because right now is kind of like being a teenager who can drink, has no curfew, and can join any clubs she wants.
Really, there’s just as much to balance and participate in now as there was when the boys were little; it’s just different. A couple friends of mine have mourned when they had hysterectomies. They had no intentions of having any more children – it was just a lock on a door – no going back. Another friend mourned the sale of her first house; her family needed the space, but she knew the sweetness of the days in that house would never come again. Moments come and go, and it isn’t until they’ve gone that we realize they aren’t coming back.
Wherever we are, we might want to have a look around, wrap ourselves in the present, realizing that as soon as we get comfortable life will change. Children will grow. Marriages will be proposed. Houses will sell. Opportunities will show up.