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?