I started to feel the feels about my son leaving the nest when he was about 14. I felt the days ticking down with a resonance of a large gong. It would draw my attention away from the moment we were in to thinking about the moment he would be leaving. I am aware I was a bit premature on feeling the feel but thats how I roll. I had been dreading that moment since he was born to be honest.
My son turned 21 last month. He has an apartment in the town next to ours while he is taking some time off before he finishes his college degree. We text here and there. I see him a couple of times a month. I am very fortunate for those two things. I am trying to give him space while missing him dearly. He is living his life and doing it well. I am so proud of the adult he is becoming. He is a really amazing man.
My daughter is on the cusp of graduating from high school. She is the baby of the family, the last one at home. I am so enormously thankful for this year I am getting wtih just her and I. We are building our relationsip in a way that we couldn’t before. She is smart, super funny, sunshine even when I know she feels a bit overcast. I am excited to see what she does with her life especially as she and I are now cusping on what I have come to refer to as The Great Break Up.
When I had my kids, I entered a relationship with these two humans. For better for worse I was committed. When my eldest entered teenager land I felt The Great Break Up beginning. When I say the The Great Break Up I am referring to empty nesting, the launch, going out on their own…. whatever you call it – it’s hard.
Raising teenagers is like being in a crappy relationship that I can’t leave. Its moderately disfunctional, moodiness is abound, it’s a bit lopsided regarding investment and return emotionally and financially but I just can’t quit. I can’t quit BUT I am very aware it will have an end. There are good times sprinkled in the awkwardness of our co-existance that make everyday a surprise. I would love the good days but under the surface mourn the fact that I know this moment will pass and it will be awhile before another moment like that would come. Its just part of growing up and parenting.
Raising kids is contantly mourning who they were and having excitement for who they will be. I will never get to hang out with six month old Sam who skuttled on his bum around the house or three year old Ella who would plant seeds anywhere and eat pansie petals. There was three year old Sam who was an artistic perfectionist and loved Brendan Frasiers George of the Jungle movie. Five year old Ella would make a punching bag out of plastic grocery bags and hang them from the balcony to beat the crap out of. Eight year old Sam Who loved Indiana Jones and would dress up like him daily. Ella at eight years old loved Justice clothes and hanging out with her BFF Juniper. All of those little people have had their time and we can’t go back and visit them. It is the biggest and most beautiful heartache. Missing desperately who they were and the relationship we had while at the same time so excited for who they will become.
If I knew of all this before I had kids … I would absolutely do it again. The pull at the heart that a parent bears is different for all of us. It depends on the parent, the kid, the raltionship, the circumstances – for me it is tears of saddness and tears of absolute joy. It reminds me of when I try to explain childbirth to someone who has never experienced it, it’s impossible to adequately explain. It is something that can only be understood through first hand experience. It’s messy and complicated.
I read an article years ago that said depression in parents is much higher for those of middle school and teenage kids than those with newborns or young children. I think about how much attention postpartum depression gets, as it should, but then I ask if statistically depression is higher with those with older kids – why are we not talking about it more?
As a parent of older kids I grew apart from my parent friends becuase life got busy. The kids didn’t hang out anymore so getting together got more difficult. It’s lonely. It is the desolving and morphing of so many relatinships all at once.
When I would think about The Great Break Up I didn’t expect to also be navigating being single at the same time. It is strange and beautiful all at the same time. Having the opportunity to get to know myself again after a nine year relationship and 21 years of parenting. I know I am not totally done parenting yet, it is changing though. I don’t have a person to look at and say “well, now what?” instead I look in the mirror and I say “well, now what?”. It doesn’t fall the same and is definitely lacking the biofeedback that a person would give. It does offer more opportunity though for me to sit with myself and ask “who am I as just me?”.
I feel very thankful that I am navigating this with my daughter still home and my son close by. As much as they have needed me over the years, I have needed them right now and they have been there. I am open and honest with them regarding the struggles and regrets that are coming up, being very mindful to not burden them with responsibility, just open honesty. This is what raising young adults is to me. Making the familial bonds that can withstand the distance that will come naturally over time for us all to grow into our own people. I hope to be a good role model of resilience, integrity, family, unconditional love with appropriate boundaries, self-love, wanderlust, grit, self respect and compassion.
I love everyday I have with my people and I look forward to what will come for us all. Life is change. Life is letting go. Life is growing. Life is loving myself for exactly who I am. Life is loving my kids and supporting them in whatever adventures they choose for their definition of a healthy whole life. They are autonomous humans on thier own ride. I have done my job well. The time is coming for me to let them go and be in the wings. Cheering them on in every role they take on. Quietly wincing at thier mistakes. Sending prayers for them to rise again with lessons learned. Ready to help if they need an assit. All the while knowing they will be doing the same for me. We are all starting out on new adventures on our own, but together. The Great Break Up is the closing of a chapter of our lives but as the saying goes “With every ending is a new beginning”. I am excited for all the adventures we have to come together and apart. We will always be family.