Seems like a lifetime ago and really, it was.
My oldest daughter turns 18 tomorrow. Eighteen years ago this week, I was getting ready to have my first child.
I was watching a movie a couple of weeks ago (OKAY IT WAS PRETTY IN PINK) and in it, Duckie was rewinding a tape deck in Andie’s car and that simple action got me to thinking about all the changes I have seen in my lifetime.
Then I started thinking about all the changes I’ve seen just since Anna (and Ella) were born.
I didn’t have a pause, play or DVR button when I was feeding my newborn babies. Meaning I was at the mercy of infomercials at 3 am as were many of you.
Yes, I know the Pioneers didn’t have television at all. GO WITH IT.
I didn’t have a cell phone until Anna was almost three years old. CAN YOU IMAGINE LEAVING THE HOUSE WITH A BABY AND NOT HAVING A PHONE?!?! It’s like we lived in the dark ages back then.
Insert eye roll.
In late 2000, I remember ordering baby Anna a red velvet Gap baby dress (on clearance for 5 bucks!) via the Internet and thought I was a rock star.
You mean, I don’t have to even leave my house? I can just press a button?? And it’s delivered to my front door??
Shut your whore mouth.
Yes, there have been lots of changes over the past eighteen years but honestly, most of the change I’ve seen has happened within the four walls of our home.
Sure when you’re raising a child, change is part of the game. You’re born, you start to walk, you become a toddler who knows everything, you go through puberty, you become a teenager who knows everything, you graduate high school.
But when you’re a parent, you evolve as well. Starting out as a scared new parent who was frightened I would press the wrong button (babies don’t have buttons), to being a parent to a toddler and never realizing how much you could hate the word NO. Or WHY.
I learned how to be a really good listener when she went through middle school to gaining lots and lots of patience when she was going through the hardest parts of high school.
I read parents comments on social media outlets (parents of children smaller than mine) making very large statements about what kids should be watching. what kids should be reading, what kids should be eating, what teenagers should be doing and it makes me laugh quietly because they think they have all the answers.
If I could give those parents one piece of advice it would be this: kids will humble you like nothing else in your life. Go with the flow.
I’m glad I had my girls for so many reasons but the biggest of those is because I am a better version of myself after having had them.
Oh, I’ve had LOTS of moments in parenting I’m not too proud of.
Screaming at the top of lungs at my kids to tell them to stop screaming at the top of their lungs.
Telling myself that I will not eat the last Little Debbie Nutty Bar then hiding it on top of the fridge because I AM THE MOM SO FUCKKKK IT.
Letting my newly-driving teenager know that if she drives more than 10 miles over the speed limit, a notification is sent to the tracking app and that app is linked to the police department.
It isn’t. By the way, get a tracking app.
But for the most part, I have become a really kick ass person because I had Anna and Ella.
I can negotiate better than the FBI, I can cook dinner, defuse a bomb, let the dog out for the third time, help with fractions, untie a knotted tennis shoe, put a ponytail up, get gum off of a hoodie, give good advice about how to tell your best friend that “no, you cannot go swimming in February and yes, I will tell her mom if you do”, write an article about the best places to take your kids in my area to dinner without hearing them bitch and complain, and make a grocery list all while Swiffering the floor.
All in less than a half hour.
I’ve also become much more compassionate, caring, understanding and kind. I have gotten a little better at cleaning up bodily fluids. I’m still having trouble not joining in when they vomit, but am better than I was eighteen years ago and that, my friends is called growth.
Eighteen years ago I was 29 years old and thought turning 30 made me old. I had shoulder length hair that was disastrously cut because my then-hairstylist learned how to cut hair through a correspondence course.
I was afraid of everything that kids bring with them including flu virus, strep, vomiting, sticky hands and the like.
I had a literal panic attack in my living room when I was five months pregnant because I NEED TO FIND A SPECIAL BABY DOCTOR?!?!
I have become a nurse without having to do one clinical.
I have become a therapist without having to read one psychology text-book.
I have become a lawyer without having to go to law school.
I have balanced a budget of a four-person family on a one-person income for the past 15 years without an Accounting degree.
And I have become a writer without having to take English Composition 2 (which I have heard is not at all fun).
I know I still have five-ish months left before Anna leaves for college but it is going at warp speed; faster than any part of my life has gone before. I know that this part of motherhood has been conquered by many mothers before me and I know I will eventually get used to it.
But I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.
I ate lunch with my friend Shannon a few months ago and sat at the table crying about how much I truly love being mommy to my girls and that I am not ready for my “shift” with Anna to be over.
I’m not ready.
My life for the past 18 years has revolved around my children and I threw myself into it with wild abandon. That’s not to say that there haven’t been awful moments that made me wish time would speed up. There were many, and I know as a mom, I am not alone in that. For a period, I felt guilty for those moments but not anymore. Raising children isn’t easy, isn’t for the weak at heart, isn’t for the selfish. It is a compliment to myself and my husband to say we are parents, first, and anything else after.
But it isn’t all soggy and filled with sadness thinking of Anna starting a new chapter. There is excitement as well. I can’t wait to watch her meet new friends, become serious about her future (which is already beginning). become even more mature, gain experiences, learn how to become a self-sufficient adult. I can’t wait to live college through her eyes (I never went away to college), I can’t wait to be a mom to her at this stage of her life.
There will be such a huge void in our home beginning August 15th. A void that we won’t ever try to fill. A room that will sit empty until she is home to be in it again. Filling it with her energy, her exuberance, and her loads of laundry that I will never complain about again. I may sit in her room the night we come home from dropping her off. Hell, I may even sleep in her room, smelling her clothes and bedding. Or maybe I will close the door and not be able to go in there for a few days or weeks.
There were many years where I thought who I was as a human being was wrapped up in important titles.
I am a retail manager.
I am a postpartum doula.
I am a nanny.
I am a writer.
But while I was so busy trying to be something “important”, something that I might not even have been, I was at the end of each day, Mommy, then Mama, or simply Mom.
And it is as one of my best projects is leaving for the first time that I realize being a mother is what I was always meant to do.
In finding myself, I realized that being a mother is the best thing I’ve done in my life.
And I am so okay with that.
I Was the Sun, The Kids Were My Planets
Saying goodbye to your children and their childhood is much harder than all the pithy sayings make it seem. Because that’s what going to college is. It’s goodbye.
It’s not a death. And it’s not a tragedy.
But it’s not nothing, either.
To grow a child, a body changes. It needs more sleep. It rejects food it used to like. It expands and it adapts.
To let go of a child, a body changes, too. It sighs and it cries and it feels weightless and heavy at the same time.
The drive home alone without them is the worst. And the first few days. But then it gets better. The kids call, come home, bring their friends, fill the house with their energy again.
Life does go on.
“Can you give me a ride to the mall?”
`Mom, make him stop!”
I don’t miss this part of parenting, playing chauffeur and referee. But I miss them, still, all these years later, the children they were, at the dinner table, beside me on the couch, talking on the phone, sleeping in their rooms, safe, home, mine.
-Beverly Beckham (to read the rest of her piece, head here)