My youngest son started his last semester of high school today. Barring disaster, he'll graduate on May 31.
It's starting to sink in that the era of day-to-day parenting is coming to an end. For over 23 years, my life has been consumed with taking care of my children's immediate needs, and in a few short months, that part of my life will be finished.
During the early years, I saw many parents weeping (and a few, sobbing) when they waved goodbye to their child as he started preschool or kindergarten. Not me; I was the parent doing the happy dance after my child was safely inside. Every new stage is an exciting adventure, a time to learn more and grow, and I've cheered my sons as they moved up and on to the next grade or school.
(I'll admit to a few tears from the back of the school auditorium when my youngest's kindergarten class had their end-of-the-year program. Not because I was sad he was leaving kindergarten per se, mind you, but because I would have to, as well. I loved, loved, loved being a kindergarten mom. Best Volunteer Mom grade ever. EVER.)
Anyone who tells you that 2 or 13 is the hardest age hasn't had a high school senior. They're impossible. They're in the throes of Where Do I Go To College? and This Is The Most Important Decision I'll Ever Make In My Life and I'm A High School Senior Why Can't I Do _______.
Since my number one's senior year of high school, I've held the theory that our children aren't difficult that last year because they are trying to separate, but so parents can. It was with profound amounts of relief and no small amount of glee that I dropped my first off in Champaign for his freshman year in college, because by the time that day finally came I was more than ready not to hear every.single.day. that he knew what he was doing but, by the way, what was for dinner and had I done his laundry yet?
But....but...this last one is hard. I've found myself on the verge of tears more than once as I go about my daily routine. Every morning when I hear his alarm clock blaring through his bedroom door is one day closer to not hearing it again. Every hockey practice he comes home from, with me waiting and reminding him that he needs to go to bed, it's late, brings me closer to him not coming home at all.
Brings me closer to an empty nest.
Terribly maudlin, I know. I can't seem to get past this feeling that my entire life is about to change. All these years, with one goal- to get my children off to college ready to be happy, productive adults. All the years of planning and scheduling and listening to triumphs and (at least at that moment) tragedies and I'm almost at the finish line.
What the hell am I supposed to do when I cross it?
Oh, sure, I know that we never stop being parents. My older children, I am thankful to be able to say, still run their ideas and goals past me. But they don't need me anymore. They don't depend on me anymore. All those years of diapers and learning to read and parent teacher conferences and sports games and Halloween costumes and Christmas mornings and arguments about what is acceptable clothing and what is not, and more laundry than I care to remember and making sure they had 3 nutritious meals a day, every day, every week, for 23 years; those days will be forever gone.
18 weeks of high school. 2 1/2 months of summer. Then, he'll be off to college.
And I'll be done, and off to new adventures of my own.