Wouldn’t Take Nothing

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Experiencing the Great Salt Lake

Back to school has changed me. When my sons were younger and full of ill-advised helpings of sugary treats with food coloring, I could not wait for the school year to start. Sure it would mean I’d have to wake up early, cart them across town in my SUV school bus, and go through the dreaded rigamarole of homework, but the house would be quiet all day. I would have time to myself again. I’d be getting my life back, jumpstarting my summer-neglected workouts and my writing, and revisiting my peaceful hours in SuperTarget wandering the aisles of things I didn’t really need but felt helplessly attracted to all the same. Lately, though, my mood about back to school has gone from Yippee to Oh crap.

I was perusing my news feed this morning and found myself buried in a wave of photos of moms jumping for joy (quite literally in some cases) at the prospect of divesting themselves from their offspring for six hours each day. I was that mom once, gleefully depositing my children at school before heading for the hills for the first transcendent hike of fall, feeling liberated at the prospect of rediscovering the me I had left behind when school let out in spring. So while I scrolled through the endless display of children in first-day-of-school photos this morning, I remembered all too well that joy of potential freedom. I just didn’t identify in quite the same way.

My sons start 7th and 9th grade next week. And, as enticing as the notions of getting our house and my life back on track are, I feel like the mom dreading dropping her child off at full-day kindergarten for the first time and acknowledging the impending loneliness. My buddies are leaving me. It’s an end-of-days feeling. I spent my summer staring wide eyed at my sons, floored by their minute-by-minute growth both in height and in maturity. They are the same kids who once left me for kindergarten, but they are so much more now. They are their own people. They are no longer mine. And it sucks. Well, it’s great and amazing and incredible and awesome and it still somehow sucks. Life is weird that way.

When I decided fifteen years ago to quit working my paying job and focus my plethora of natural energy on my infant son, I didn’t give much thought to where it would lead me. I only knew that I had a newborn who seemed hell bent on never sleeping or napping or giving up colic who would probably drive me to an early grave if I attempted to maintain a career and figure out his sleep schedule if he even had one. He didn’t. I had no idea where this journey would take me. Today, though, as I sit here contemplating back to school with a middle schooler and a high schooler, my chosen path makes sense. All the sleepless nights, endless testing, and struggles to figure out how to help them, all the missteps, flubs, and pitfalls of parenting, all the little milestones, the small steps forward, and the minuscule personal triumphs, they were all worth whatever sacrifice I made in savings, earnings potential, and career advancement. I’ve got the tears of gratitude to prove it.

How lucky am I to have had this experience, to have been able to stay with them, suffer alongside them, search for solutions with them, and monitor their progress? To have been able to catch them in the first few minutes after their school day and see their disappointments and triumphs before they faded? And how fortunate am I that I have had them for 13 and 15 years and been able to witness their transition into actual human people when some parents are tragically robbed of that opportunity? I have no idea what path I will take if I get to see Joe graduate from high school in four years. No clue what career I might find or how I might re-enter the workforce after a 20-year hiatus. No sense of who I might yet become. All I know today is that I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. I don’t just love my children. I actually like them, even when they are acting like little creeps with skills I am positive they honed while watching me not have my best moments. I’m going to miss them in the coming weeks when I am once again wandering aimlessly through SuperTarget in a dress rehearsal for my life without them. Still, I wouldn’t take nothing.

8 comments

  1. Amen, sister.

    All four of you have benefited. I wish more people would choose this route.
    The day job? Those few flimsy dollars would have been long gone.
    But look at the wondrous memories and experiences we have, to keep forever.

    Take care,

    Paz

    1. The longer I am allowed to spin on this beautiful planet, Paz, the more I am grateful for my time. And I’ve really come to embrace that relationships and experiences with others are what truly matter. You never get a second chance to raise your kids. I can have a second career later. 🙂

  2. I’m completely with you on this. My son starts Sophomore year in High School in 12 days (who’s counting), and I can’t help but flash forward 3 years to when he will graduate and move on. Without me. All grown up (well, sort of). I know this is how it is supposed to be, he is supposed to mature and become his own man. I just wish it took a little longer to happen. I’m not ready.

    1. It’s so hard to think about them moving on. I feel you. I try to think that the time I put in now will land me with better relationships with them later when they don’t “need” me but hopefully will enjoy spending time with me. It’s quite a journey, but so worth it. Best wishes with sophomore year!

  3. Great post and I’m with you all the way. Wouldn’t trade my time with my boys for all the money in the world. I have no regrets about quitting my job and becoming a full time stay at home mom. Best decision I ever made! Like someone said to me many years ago, “You can always get another job, but you only have one chance to raise your children.” So true.

    1. Gail…this is totally how I feel about it. I know I severely impacted my long-term earning potential by quitting my career mid-stream, but I only have 20 years when my kids might want or need me around. I don’t want to miss that. I have the rest of my life to be independent and find myself.

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