Saturday, March 23, 2013

Through and Beyond

My son will take driver's ed in the fall. It doesn't matter whether he wants to or not (he doesn't). Our school district mandates that all tenth graders complete a semester of driver's ed.

I gulp when I realize that driver's ed is upon us, that tenth grade is upon us, that sixteen years old is upon us.

My life as a parent is coming to a close. Oh, sure, I will be a parent for as long as I'm alive. I know that. What I mean is that this stage of actively parenting children who live in the same house as I do is nearing its end.

I grieve a little. How did it go so fast? If I wish to revisit the baby years, or the preschool years, I must close my eyes or thumb through photo albums. And I do, sometimes I do. I held a baby the other night, and her cooing sounds were music, old, familiar, welcome music. My body instinctively knew what to do with this little creature: I stood her on my thighs, and we bounced together, and she chortled. Not for the first time I mused, What a good mother I'd make today, knowing what I do now, and with patience born of age.

And then I gave the baby a bottle, and I listened to her contented sucking, watched her fluttering eyelids, and ached for what was and what will never again be.


What the manuals don't say is that completing the parenting cycle means reestablishing a relationship with your partner, redefining him or her as companion, not co-parent. This takes work, and so it ought. Sometimes couples find it impossible to return to what was, before the children came onto the scene and disrupted every single thing. That's why one hears of so many separations and divorces around the time the children leave for college.

This morning my husband and I listened to music while we did whatever it is we do on our laptops. We sipped at our coffee. The house was still, the kids sleeping on into late morning, as teenagers will.

And I kept stealing bashful glances at my spouse and wondering, Will we end up making it through, and beyond?


Blog Antagonist said...

Yes. It's werid. In my many ways. And yes, I miss the early days. But honestly, I am also really, really, really looking forward to having my home, my freedom and my identity back.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I had my children in my 30s and sometimes wish I'd had them in my 20s because then I might be a grandmother, like many of my peers.

I honestly love having teenagers--they're so interesting and engaging and fun (most of the time). It seems a cruel joke that you come to this place where your relationship with them takes on so many wonderful complexities and dimensions and then poof--they are out the door.

There have been many times I've questioned how my husband and I would (will) navigate the empty nest years. If I'm honest, I'll admit there were moments I wasn't sure our marriage would have any substance left to it once the parenting duties ended. In the last year or two, I've been more optimistic. I know we can never recapture how we used to be (we waited 13 years to have kids so have a long history as a couple). My focus now is on finding and building a new relationship with him based on who we are now, not the people we were oh so many years ago.

InTheFastLane said...

I get this. I have one who has her deposits paid for college and come August, will have another residence for most of the year. This has been a strange time of thinking forward to how things will be different when we have only two kids in our house and in our responsibilities the majority of the time.

It is exciting, and scary, and weird. But, at the same time liberating. And because we started our marriage with one kid and had a 2nd soon after, we have never known life without them. But as they have gotten older, I think we have actually become stronger and really found the "us" part that can sometimes get lost in all the other family responsibilities.

Since my youngest is only 7, we still have years to go, but I feel like as we grew our family, we survived some pretty tough stuff and will come out of the parenting years stronger for it.

Nicole said...

This is so true. I'm starting to see it in my circle, as the kids grow so does the marital discord. Or the parents start to grow apart, or maybe they just realized they have grown apart. So very sad.

sullimaybe said...

Ages 16-19 are tender years.

Mother Nature is kind at the end.

Fun years ahead (ahem).


kayak woman said...

My daughters are 20-somethings and I've been through the empty nest stuff. It isn't easy but I feel like we made it through. And it isn't just that the kids have left. Beginning when they were in college, we lost a lot of relatives. My brother, dad, favorite aunt, and mother.
In the midst of all that, I returned to the work force (at 50-something, no less, who'da thunk it).

Lots of change in a short space of time. My husband gave each other a LOT of space throughout all this stuff and my he was absolutely wonderful with my mom during her last couple years of life.

We have slowly, begun to create new little routines, walking downtown on Fridays to meet for dinner, etc. And we hang around with our daughters *together* sometimes.

Good luck. And good luck with driver's ed!

Christine said...

I know it's not, but i still feel like it is so far away....

Marty Long said...

We live on both ends in our home with Mallory starting her senior year of high school in the fall, Christopher starting Kindergarten, and Colin starting preschool.

I find myself longing for more and more time with her every second that it grows less and less.

FS Mom said...

I never longed for another child, though got one as a gift. He is a pleasure and a reminder of my big boys' power ranger days. I also feel like I might have lost my chance for being anything but mom. It is what it is. Connecting with spouse takes work at all stages. No reason empty nest, or baby in the house would be any different, right?