Yesterday I happened upon a blog post that set me to thinking. The blog’s author, Alecia of Freak Show Minus Tent, wrote that she is disturbed by the notion that some parents look forward to time away from their children. Then, she requested feedback as to whether her readers were looking forward to having their children move away from home. Now, it’s not Alecia’s question that bothered me. I honestly think it’s a great place to start a real conversation. What bothered me about her post was the way I felt when I read it. I felt judged unfairly. I felt inadequate. You see, Alecia’s assertion is that it’s somehow wrong to want space from your children, and I’m a person who loves my kids yet sees nothing detrimental about needing time away from them. I’m not the world’s most patient person. I am a bit selfish. And, to top it off, I am an introvert who needs peace and quiet to recharge. Does my need to have a break from my noisy, non-stop children on occasion necessarily imply that I’m an unloving, careless parent? I suppose, to some people, it does.
I’ve never looked at my desire to have a break from my mischievous cherubs as a parenting flaw. For me, that downtime is a prerequisite to ensure that when I am with them (which I am the vast majority of the time because I am a stay-at-home parent) I am calm, cool, collected, and mostly emotionally stable. I have made sure that my sons know that I’m not simply their cook, maid, and chauffeur. Since the boys were 2 and 4, I’ve searched for ways to pursue things I enjoy, things that are separate from my life with them. It started with a 2-day, 40-mile Avon Walk that required hours of training. From there, I took classes, began practicing yoga, and started writing again. I never wanted my sons to think that they were my raison d’être. I wanted them to know that they improved my life, not began it. I wanted them to see me not just as Mom but also as a person. I hoped to set the example that a family exists because people care for each other and take turns making sacrifices for each other. And this is what I believe I have perpetuated by occasionally asking them take a back seat. I hope I’m teaching them that the world does not, despite what they believe, revolve around them.
As to the question of whether I will celebrate the occasion when our youngest heads off to college in 2022, my answer is yes. We have 18 years to bring our kids up the best we can with whatever skills, resources, and talents we can muster. We will pour our blood, sweat, and tears into their development. When they are ready to leave home, we need to acknowledge that this phase in our parenting experience is over. We’ve completed the task we were charged with. We’re graduating and, for that reason, we should celebrate….not because of what we’re jettisoning but because of what we’ve accomplished. So, yes. When our youngest is headed off to college, I imagine we will celebrate. Perhaps we’ll even throw ourselves a little party to mark the end of an amazing journey and to acknowledge the beginning of a new one. And, when the wine bottles have been emptied and our friends are gone, I will give myself a small pat on the back for doing the best I could in my own impatient, somewhat selfish, introverted, quiet-seeking sort of way. Then, make no mistake about it, I will go to bed and cry myself to sleep because my heart will ache over the loss of my precious little ones. And the next morning I will wake up, wipe the tears from my eyes, figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and look forward to someone showing up with their laundry.