I had a terrific conversation with a friend last night. She is ten years older than I, and that much wiser too.
Topic of conversation? When your children leave for college, you see her daughter is 18, so I had no advice, only what I would imagine my life to look like at that point. I didn’t feel lost in translation as we spoke, but more compassionate and fearful of what I will eventually be like at this phase of my boys’ lives and my own. She talked about how difficult it will be to do things for herself. Up until this point she had literally dedicated the last 18 years of her life, to her daughter’s life. She ensured all her decisions were centered around what was best for her child, and what the impact of these decisions would be. She built a strong relationship with her daughter, based on love, respect and now maturity.
I couldn’t help but comment to her as she spoke to me about how lost she felt. I told her that l thought she should start this second chapter of her life thinking it wouldn’t be difficult. Who am I kidding? When my boys leave home, I am sure I will be a blubbering idiot, tears and all.
What I was trying to convey was, that I thought that this would be the first opportunity for her to really just do things for herself, make decisions based on what her needs and wants are, rather than catering to everyone around her. She lets me know how hard this concept is already, nevermind putting it into action. The idea that she could somehow live to fulfill any of her dreams is daunting and no longer in her repertoire. She says she will try.
We laugh as she tells me, that she anticipates that she will feel so lost that she will be offering random strangers her childcare services… I laugh as I tell her that many would probably accept, including me (see previous post, Date Night).
I imagine if I were in her shoes I would feel lost, or like I had forgotten something important in a foreign country. My children have become part of me, part of who I am, not just a task or responsibility. They have become part of my routine, and my decisions are for them not because of them. I have made them my priority because I wanted to, not because I needed too.
It’s interesting to think that there are some parents out there who feel their children are burdensome, while others see them as little incredible blessings, as a part of who they are, and extension of themselves. So when I say to start a new chapter when the kids leave home, I am clearly talking out of my lack of experience, I have no idea how difficult this is, yet.
For all you parents who have children leaving the nest, I say…God Speed. My heart goes out to you for the heartache you will endure, the worry, the restlessness, the loneliness and the anxiety you will suffer.
I also high five you, chest bump you and fist pound you, because I do know you will find some moments to read a full book, finish your coffee, finally buy a piece of furniture that will not get destroyed, paint the hand – printed walls and enjoy frequent long baths in silence. I know, in time, you will be ok, and I know when it’s my time, I will eventually, someday, somehow, be ok too.
So to my friend, pack your bags and head off to Thailand, send postcards.