Tomorrow my oldest child turns sixteen. His younger sister, only his junior by a year and joining him in high school this September, asked me in the car: “Mom, how does that make you feel?” Funny, but I hadn’t really thought about how it made me feel. Up until that point, it didn’t occur to me to feel anything.
I remember when the Irish twins both attended elementary school for the first time. Kindergarten and First grade. For the first time in six years, I only had one little one to care for at home and when people asked me <gasp!> what I was going to do with myself, I was pretty confident I could figure it out. And I did: I started writing novels. With my little blonde cohort, who sat in my office with his Star Wars figures and Duplo blocks, I began charting a course for myself in which I’d never turn back. Happily, I worked and played all day and had fresh-baked cookies on the counter for the school-aged kids. It was an exceptionally joyous transition.
Sometimes I think I’m one of the few moms who embrace transitions like these with little to no tears and while milestones certainly pull on my heartstrings for a few minutes, mostly I am incredibly honored to raise and watch my children grow into themselves, to see how they navigate their own lives. The older they get, the less I intrude, and how they chart their course is remarkable. Sometimes I still butt in, big-time. Like when the eldest decides shouting sensitive anatomy vocabulary at the top of his lungs is a fun neighborhood activity, or when the daughter decides chatting with an online stranger is okay. Yeah. No. Mama is still the boss. But mostly, up to this point they have proved trustworthy and so, I give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. May that day never arrive. The prayer of parents everywhere.
My children are only mine for a short time. For the “twins”, that time has waned dramatically. In my opinion, by the time you house high schoolers, if you don’t step way back, they don’t find their way. And in a time when more and more mid-twenty something’s are living at home, and college kids can’t hack being away on their own without their decision-making helicopter parent hovering nearby, I gladly step out of the center of their solar system, and become the moon instead of the sun. I’m still here. I’ll still guide their tides, but I will not be their main source of light for much longer. They have to find it inside themselves.
I believe my babies are really good at that. And that brings the tears.
So, baby girl, how do I feel? I feel pretty damn good.