Tag Archives: growing up

Traveling Away

After eight days of being gone, my boy came home a different child.

I put him on a bus in England and watched him drive away, across a country, across the Channel, across half a continent.  I got a text message from one of the teachers the next day telling me they’d arrived safely in Italy.

Then I spent eight days scouring occasional Facebook posts from the school, full of pictures of children covered entirely from head to toe in layers of winter gear wearing helmets and goggles and scarves, for a glimpse of his face.

I saw him twice, smiling at the base of the mountain on the first day and standing with his arm slung over a friend at the bowling alley near the end of the week.

For eight days I didn’t hear his voice.  My house, despite the three remaining children, was strangely empty, weirdly out of balance.  We were missing a piece that made the parts a whole.

I knew when he stepped off the bus after eight long days that he was a new man.  I could see it in his face, in his smile, in his body language.  In the way he said goodbye and thanked the teachers who’d chaperoned the trip and got his own bag out of the bottom of the bus.  He’d found an independence he’d never known, and now it was his to keep.

Still the same at heart, though, he flung his arms around me right there in the parking lot of his school and hugged me and kissed me hello in front of all his friends because if there’s one thing this boy isn’t, it’s embarrassed to show emotions. Thank every god there is for that, because I needed every last hug he had to give.

As he walked across the parking lot dragging his ski bag in his wake and shouting goodbyes to his friends, I had an uneasy realization that we’d crossed a bridge and left behind a little irretrievable piece of childhood.  

We went home and he showered for the first time in several days and I put on the first of at least three loads of his dirty ski laundry and made us both a cup of tea, and we sat on the couch and I gratefully listened to every last detail of the skiing and the sledding and the food and the two 12-hour bus rides.  I soaked in every word and smiled at the odd details an 11-yr old boy remembers and feels the need to share (“our instructor had really cool hair” and “the pasta at the hotel was a weird shape one night”).   And he hugged me, a dozen times at least, and said that even though he was never homesick, he did really miss us. 

Parenting is a series of heartbreaks.  When we do it right, we teach them how to stop needing us, how to move away and become themselves, and in doing so we make ourselves obsolete.  I know it’s for the best; that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. 

But I’ll take a cup of tea together, some silly stories, and a few hugs for as long as he’s willing to give them.

Growing Up

Over the weekend, Bridget left for a 6-day school trip to Barcelona.  It’s a seriously amazing trip and an incredible opportunity for her. 

But… (there’s always a but…)

All last week before the trip,  I would think about her leaving and feel a surge of panic and hysteria.  I could physically feel the fear rise up in my throat and choke me.  She was so excited and kept talking about the cooking classes they’d be taking and the tour of the chocolate museum and the FC Barcelona stadium.  And I would nod and agree and remind her to get recipes for the things she makes in cooking class.  And inside I would be shrieking that she is not old enough to get on a plane and fly to another country without me.

I think I managed to hide it.  But it took some serious effort on my part.

I love that she’s growing up into an adventurer.  I am so grateful for the unbelievable opportunities she has to travel and see new places and try new things.  I genuinely want her to go out into the world without fear and without needing me or Matt to lean on, to cling to. 

But man, it’s really hard for me not to cling to her.

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The End of an Era: Outgrowing the Baby Stage

My babies_May 2010

Without even realizing it was happening, we left behind the Baby Stage and set off for uncharted territory.  All my kids are big now.

When you’re in those baby years, it’s so all-encompassing it’s impossible to imagine life any other way. Your entire day is spent doing something for someone else: dressing them, feeding them, cleaning them, entertaining them.  Buckling car seats, tying shoes, cutting up food, all for someone that is not you.

baby B and skinny mommy

You become so used to living with the expectation of getting puked on and wiping butts and  sleeping with a small foot in your rib cage that it’s second nature.  Then when it ends, it’s so gradual you don’t even realize it’s happening.

And suddenly you’re out of it and you look around at these giant children in your house and wonder where your babies went.

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Starting School

WP_20150909_07_59_32_ProLast week, my baby, my youngest, my little bug, the reason I stopped working, and the person who I’ve literally spent more time with in the past five years than any other person on earth, went off to full-day school.

Without a backward glance, he strode into a classroom–a classroom full of strangers, mind you–and he was gone.  For eight hours a day now he’ll be off with his teacher, his friends, doing his own thing, for the next…well, forever.  And I’m relegated to running errands alone and wondering where the time went.

When each of my children began school, I watched them go with a certain sense of finality, knowing that I would no longer be the main influence in their days.  They would do things and say things and see things that I would know nothing about.  I watched with pride, but also with sadness.  It’s hard letting go.

WP_20150909_08_02_11_ProThis time, though, was even more difficult.  Because this is the last time.  There’s no one left at home with me all day, and I work and clean and read and write in a house echoing with silence and the occasional ping of the dryer finishing a load.  Music doesn’t seem to fill the empty space very well.  And although I’m not lonely, and I’m certainly not lacking things to do, it’s a little solitary.

Even though the first thing Quinn said when he woke up that morning — the VERY first thing — was “I don’t want to go to school”, he overcame his doubts.  He put on his new uniform, packed up his bag, and walked in to a new place in a new country filled with new people.  He never even considered hanging back, waiting at the door, clinging to my hand.  He looked in the class, said hello to his teacher (who he’d never met, never even seen before), and was off to explore.  He wasn’t scared.

I walked away from Quinn’s class last week with a smile on my face, proud of his bravery and his lack of hesitation.  I made it about three steps outside of his line of vision before the tears escaped down my cheeks, but I choked them back, grabbed Matt’s hand (because even if Quinn didn’t need a hand to hold right then, I certainly did), and snuck a peek through his classroom window on the way to the car.  He was already playing and talking.

Motherhood, it seems, is just one long series of letting go.  Of setting the children up for success, but yourself up for heartbreak.  Of brave faces and hidden tears.  We do it — we let them go — because we know it’s the right thing, because it’s good for them, because it’s how they grow and learn.  But that doesn’t make it any easier.

This face when I picked him up at the end of the day helped though.

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