Right now my son sits in his final day of high school. He will leave at 2:30, never to return as a student. I sound like a drama queen, I know. But this is what consumes my thoughts. I’m surprised how sad I am. I should be celebrating, right? Yes. And no.
My counselor friend Lucille Zimmerman says the graduation and transition of the first child is considered one of the most difficult and painful life transitions for the family. Based on the intensity of my emotions over the past twelve months, I concur.
It feels like a ripping, like someone is tearing off of a piece of me. I’m jagged, raw. And there is nothing I can do about it.
For me the ripping started just a few months before my oldest son’s 17th birthday, when he could finally drive himself to and from school, work, his friends’ houses. One morning he couldn’t wait for my chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. The next he rushed out the door and said he didn’t have time, leaving a cold plate on the kitchen counter. One Friday night he curled up on our family room floor watching movies and eating pizza just as we’d done for 16 years. The next weekend he said he’d be hanging out with friends. He didn’t need us the same way anymore, didn’t want us the same way anymore. Almost overnight he became a man-child, every day more independent.
This is what we want as parents. We want our children to grow up, become responsible human beings, able to make their own way and be a positive force in our culture. Yes, we want this. I want this. But I didn’t anticipate the ripping necessary for my children to stand on his own. I didn’t know how much I would miss the days I once wished away but now can never get back.
As I write I’m trying to remember the last time my boys crawled into our bed on a Saturday morning, all legs and giggles and my husband and I moaning because of the 7 AM time on the clock. No matter how hard I rack my brain, I can’t remember it. Because I didn’t realize it was the last time. If I’d have known, we would have stayed there all day.
Do you ever wish you could go back? What memory would you revisit if you could?
When my youngest was a baby I read an essay about how we celebrate our children's "firsts" and never notice the "lasts" until they are long past. It really hit me, and I was past a lot of the last with my oldest kids at that point (last time I picked them up and carried them, last time they fell asleep in my arms, last time they would hold my hand in public – except that one came back). Since then, I have tried to be a little more present to these little steps on the way. For example, when I was preparing for surgery last year and knew I wouldn't lift anything over 10 pounds for months, I was positive I would never pick up my then-8-year-old again, and I relished it while I could and even told him what I was doing. Now, a year later, he challenges me now and then and yep, I can still pick him up. Not sure when the last time will be, but we will probably both be laughing. When you ask what memory I would revisit, though, my mind goes straight to "Our Town" and the idea that we never really relish the ordinary moments the way we should.
I haven't thought about "Our Town" in such a long time. But you're absolutely right. Sums up the ache I feel perfectly. It's the ordinary moments, more than the exceptional ones, that I miss the most.
P.S. I love picturing you picking up your "baby!"
I was misty-eyed a few sentences in-call me a drama queen too! It'll be a decade before we encounter this scenario, but I am reminded of its certainty. Thank you for sharing.
Glad I'm not the only dramatic one! Enjoy every moment, Maggie. I can't tell you how many times in the past few months I've wished I could go back and savoring every moment just a little bit more.
I've described this feeling myself, as the ripping away of the apron strings…. not neat cutting line, no effortless tugging – but a horrible r-i-p, almost as if the apron strings would draw blood as they left the apron. Did you read the poem I posted a week or so ago about letting go of my children….?
Yes, I did. I know you understand well what I'm talking about!
If only us kids knew what our parents went through when we grew up… We might have eased up on ya'll and been a little more understanding and loving. 🙁
By the way… Love the picture!
Hmmm … yes. I thought the same thing. 🙂 At least it didn’t take you very long to understand. I’ve been so proud of you this year, how kind and appreciative you are of others. Such a beautiful quality, Ash.