This has been a tough week…
I have been struggling with separation anxiety all week, now that all seven of my kids are finally school age, i.e. not at home anymore. I believe that in the ring of getting older, this is the right hook of empty nest syndrome, with the final jab knocking me down for the count: the kids leaving home for good.
No matter how prepared I think I am, I’m just not. I know I parade around on this page as though I haven’t given up my life for my kids, but when they’re gone like this, I realize how much I actually have. I went from grasping tiny and even medium sized hands for years to grasping at straws–in what feels like no time at all.
When Pippin and I met, it was an instant party.
Combined, we had 5 kids under age 6 when we got together. And because that wasn’t enough, we had two more. We were young ourselves, and Pippin was the perfect partner in all the blended chaos. I remember reading back then about how blended families have a 25% chance of making it past a year before they are usually faced with another divorce. That figure crushed me. I understood why, but when we blazed a trail past each year, still together and still very much in love, I knew we had cracked the code. I felt lucky, overwhelmed, tired, but well-loved and in so many different ways.
I had kids that were mine that weren’t his; kids that were his that weren’t mine; and we had kids together. It wasn’t long before I became concerned that each child would feel lost in our gaggle and made it my personal quest to ensure each one would find their way, and seek out who they are, what makes them unique, and still a very necessary cog in our crazy family wheel.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because not once did I ever think it would change.
Why? Because when we were all together, piled in our 12 passenger Econoline, or all attempting to sleep on the same never-big-enough mattress in the wee hours of the morning when they were collectively much smaller, everything was perfect. I mean, we were far from normal, but this was everything I ever wanted, without really knowing it.
Everyone around me was shocked: She could handle seven kids, let alone one? Yessir, and these kids were everything that defined, or re-defined, family for me: wacky, emotional, hilarious and inconvenient–but chock full of endless, breathtaking love. No wonder I handed over my life to them–what in the hell was I before them? I couldn’t remember because I scrubbed it from my mind for a reason. This was my life now: a permanent upgrade–or so I thought.
Fast forward to today.
Imagine seven different kindergarten goodbyes, spread out over 13 years. You’d think I was a pro by now and although I can handle back to school paperwork in my sleep these days and have even gotten really good at turning down school-wide pleas for me to join the PTA (I jest), I’m definitely not good at the letting go thing. And it’s especially compounded when they are doing so well away from me, and I need to pretend that I am too.
That’s the best picture I’ve seen you draw. You made it all the way across the monkey bars with no help? You spelled your entire name with no help? You check out a library book on spiders all by yourself? Oh, what did I do today? Well, I thought of how great you are doing and then I did some laundry. Unfortunately I had no planned response in my back pocket to offer–that was better at least, than a soggy sandwich reply like thinking of you and laundry.
So the best thing I can do for myself is to look for a job; I simply can’t take the quiet. They go do their thing during the day and I go and do mine and we can talk about it each night and I can adjust. Slowly but surely. So that I can ultimately get myself ready for those much bigger goodbyes coming down the line…and if I’m not mistaken, my first is about seven months out.
Better get good at this,