In the Exit Lane of Parenting

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They say parenting never ends. I suppose that’s true, but as one who’s approaching the offramp, I can already tell the scenery’s about to change.

My son is in college and my daughter is soon to follow. I’m still on the freeway, but I’m slowing down. The signal’s flashing as I prepare to change lanes. Slower traffic keep right.

The phrase empty nest is misleading. It strikes me as minimizing, patronizing even, and doesn’t hint at the bittersweet beauty of this time. Children aren’t chicks who grow up and fly away leaving us hapless mama birds to wonder what happened. Their departure takes longer and begins earlier, with each little step toward independence and self-knowledge.

It’s more like the long goodbye.

I find parenting teens to be joyous and exciting. My kids have grown into fascinating people, and I’ve grown into myself as a mother and a woman. Asha-me and Mom-me now walk hand-in-hand, unlike during the early parenting years when it was hand-to-hand combat.

There’s so much to talk about now. Movies to watch together without worrying if they’re too scary. Off-color jokes to tell. Frank conversations about drugs and sex and money. Current events to discuss. Wisdom to impart (a joy of getting older is realizing you’ve gotten wiser).

Asha-me and Mom-me now walk hand-in-hand, unlike during the early parenting years when it was hand-to-hand combat.

My own memories reignite as I ponder the similarities and differences between my kids’ high school- and early college years and my own.

For sure, it’s not all glowing sunsets and neatly-closed loops. Saying goodbye to my son on a college campus thousands of miles away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I find my gaze catching on the curve of my daughter’s cheekbone, not wanting to look away.

The background noise of our family life grows fainter.

I listen more closely now, aware of the silences, alert to new rhythms.

Tick, tick, tick goes the signal as I make my way toward the exit.

Writing this post felt setting off on an adventure and coming home at the same time. I hope you’ll stick around. For a monthly-ish update when I post new stuff, sign up for my newsletter below.

Title photo by Simone Hutsch on Unsplash

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6 Comments

  • Endlessly grateful for the writers and humans who share these journeys with us! I am eagerly watching as you take this exit. Can’t wait to see where your next stop is.

    • Same. I feel like many of us found each other when our kids were little, and now we’re entering a new juncture where we can find each other again because there’s more room for our own voices.

  • I found myself quoting you just this weekend as I was talking about this time of parenting. So thrilled you’re writing again, sister. I will be following intently. xo

    • Oh, K, thank you. Shocking how hard it was to start, but how easily it came once I just cleared space in my day (and heart) for writing.

  • I also am looking forward to this blog. I’m a few years behind you, but I always love getting the wisdom to prepare.

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