March 18, 2015

Freezing time

The older I become and closer I approach that moment of my youngest child turning 18 (at the end of this year), the more I wish I could stop everything. I realize that I have defined myself as a "stay at home" mom since 1995. Twenty years. The last few years, I've not had to stay at home as much as I've needed to be accessible. The adjustment hasn't been seamless.

I'm at a crossroads. I don't know what is next as the nest is less full than in 2013, and approaching completely empty in 2016. I am raw.  I spent 12 years going to school, but finished, with a clearly defined "next", which was college. For me, it took 5 years, and then a small segue into the land of careers before realizing my career was closely tied to marriage and starting a family.

Nobody ever talks about what is next. I'm still a mom, but there is no need for my services on 24/7 basis. I don't abdicate my mom title, but I do reflect on all it's meant the past 20 years. My oldest is in her second year of college and my youngest in her 3rd year of high school. She is preparing for post high school the same way I am. But where are my standardized tests? Where can I be tested to see what I accomplished and what is recommended for me next?

That is a problem. There is no standardized protocol to follow after this milestone. 24/7 for 20 years and then, nothing. I find myself thinking more and more often about days past. Wishing I could freeze them. Wishing I could return. Especially the days when I didn't feel like paying attention. The days when I shooed them away so I could carve out time for myself. If only I could get those back.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a neighbor of mine. She has children who are about 5 years behind my own. Her oldest just started high school and we ran into each other at a concert. I did that "old grizzled wizened mom" thing where we talked about all the great things available for our children. I commented, "I love knowing where my kids are and what they are doing on a Friday or Saturday. I love that they are involved with XYZ."

Wasn't expecting that!
 photos courtesy of:
Clearly, I was on a roll, so I continued. I said, "Think of it this way. This is the last time in their lives they will be able to run with a track team, or perform on a school stage. They aren't likely to audition for choir or band again, and the school dances will come to an end along with pep rallies. This is the time for them to enjoy that and for us to do what we can to make sure they take full advantage of it today. It doesn't come back."

We nodded knowingly reflecting on the own activities we did in high school and the infrequency of it since. I don't play clarinet these days and I'm not even sure I remember. I am not likely to march at halftime at a football game (although a few years ago, during our sneak peek show, the parents were invited to come out on the field with the kids and it was a hoot -- even if I was off a beat).  The point is, I've moved onto adult responsibilities and relaxations.

As tempted as I am to do over those days I wasn't engaged, I know that's horribly unfair. It would be like yelling at someone who slept when they took a vacation at Disney. Yes, everything is incredibly exciting. It's also exhausting. You must recharge.

I realized I cannot look back. I cannot freeze time. I can only remember it and cherish it. I can hold it close to my heart while I patiently await what is next.


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