Hindsight is always 20/20, they say.
Or, as I heard recently in a country song, the days are long but the years are short.
I believe this is especially true for parents.
This blog post is a letter to my younger mom-self. Back before I knew how to be a mom. Before I knew how fast time would go by. And well before my kids would think about moving away from home. Away from their parents!
You’re going to wish you’d skipped that last prenatal class and stayed home to sleep instead. That was the last time you’d see a good night’s sleep for two months. But you were so excited to meet him for the first time – who could sleep knowing that soon, you’d be holding your baby boy in your arms?
Skip ahead four years.
He’ll be beyond ready for school. He’s known colours, shapes, numbers and the alphabet for what seems like FOREVER. Your nickname for him will be “The Sponge” because of how interested he is in knowledge. As you see him off to school for the first time, you’ll hold it together quite well, until you’re inside the house again. You’ll immediately burst into tears and call your mother. How did this happen so soon?
Skip ahead eleven years.
He’s so much like you, you’re like oil and water together. You’ll have a love/hate relationship with one another but at the end of the day, you’d jump to give your life for his. That’s just what parents do. He’ll get his first job and will be earning his own money. His first goal will be his own iPad. The tenacity and vision that he has for his life will just blow you away. And not just you. Friends and family will notice this, too, during conversations. You have a one-of-a-kind kid. And the pride you’ll see in his eyes when he unwraps his hard-earned iPad will confirm what you’ve always known: he’s going places in life. And he’ll be creating those opportunities himself.
Skip ahead one year.
He’s not himself. He’s sullen, quiet and avoids eye contact and laughter as much as he possibly can. On the first day of your camping vacation this year, he’s going to come out to you. You’re not ready for this, despite suspecting this might be the case. It’s going to throw you for a real loop, and you’re going to face the very decision that he’ll have been terrified of for the past several years. Will you accept him or reject him? Parenting is unconditional, and you promised him from the moment he was born that you’d love and support him. You’ll have made good on your promise.
Skip ahead 3 years.
Him: “I can’t wait to move out!” You: “I can’t wait for you to move out!” You’re both (half) joking. He’s always been headstrong and opinionated. Why not? He’s learned from the best – YOU! But even though you’ll hold it together on the drive to his university, and find yourself excited for his new life, you’ll still choke back tears and try to leave as soon as you can without being rude. Why should his last image of his mom be one with mascara running down her cheeks?
After each of his visits home, that tight feeling in your chest will return. It won’t get any easier. No one ever told you that it’s this hard for parents.
There will be an autumn walk when he admits he feels different at home. He’ll tell you that it looks like home, but it doesn’t feel like home. He’ll feel like a guest, even though he’s spent 14 years living in that house. You’ll explain that it’s natural. As he’ll experience new things at school, with new people, he’ll begin to diverge from his family life and create his own habits, friends, memories and experiences. But you’ll make sure there’s no question, there’s always a place for him. At home.
Moms and dads of all ages and stages – it’s recently occurred to me that my own parents must have felt this way when I left home. Why had I never imagined they would?
No matter what stage you’re at in your role as a parent, treasure the short time you have with your kids. Take excessive pictures. Make memories by insisting on family dinners, family activities and timeouts from electronics. Focus on experiences, not material things. Most of all, love them unconditionally.