Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taking a Seat in the Stands

In three days’ time, my eldest will be headed back to college for her second year. I well remember the anxiety we all felt last year as she packed up her clothes and dorm room necessities. We made last minute trips to pick up toiletries and food she could easily prepare when studying late at night or when cafeteria food wasn’t appealing. I prepared her favorite meals and her “last supper” and we all laughed at how morbid that sounded as we took “last night” pictures together. The kids all enjoyed making s’mores around the backyard fire pit and had a siblings sleepover too. And although we tried to play it cool, we shed some tears too, off and on, the night before she left and the day she left. In fact, after we waved goodbye to Syd and her Dad as they left the driveway, Emma and I took solace. We crawled into my bed and had a good cry. We knew she’d be back, but we both had a sneaking suspicion that things would never quite be the same ever again.

She had a great first year at school however, and after she was settled, I had very few tears. I was happy that she was happy. It made dealing with the idea of her “leaving the nest” that much easier. She was very content and savoring her independence and the new adventures she was having. When she came home on breaks and then left for school again, it seemed we’d been doing this for years, not just for weeks or months. We prided ourselves in being well adjusted.

But now, as she begins to pack for school again, things feel...different. Sydney came home in May, a good month and a half or so before we finished our own school year. She started working full time and upon her arrival home in the evening, she was tired and would often go into her room to nap, talk with friends, or to simply have her alone time. The rest of us carried on as normal. We finished homework, did chores, got meals prepared, and counted the days until our own vacation.

When everyone was done with school, Sydney got her license and became more independent. Suddenly there were solo trips out of town and that solidified for us the fact that this would most likely be her last summer at home. Strangely, we’re okay with that, for we understand her need to spread her wings. And yet, there is this uneasy feeling that perhaps I have a few words left unsaid or some life lessons I should be imparting on my daughter before it’s too late. There are feelings of guilt that maybe we did not make the very most of the time we had, both this summer and in the past 19 years she has been in our life. I know that this kind of thinking is crazy. My husband and I always put family first and being teachers, we had every evening, weekend, school vacation week, and summer off to be with all three of our children. We could not have spent more time with these kids, but I suppose as I see my own parents aging, I know how precious time is, and how quickly life passes us by. I surely know how fast these past 19 and a half years, since I first became a parent, have flown.

I suppose I can only pray that I’ve done a good enough job as a Mom to have given her not only the courage to live her own life so independently, but the wisdom to make that life easier on herself. She’s going to keep stumbling, of that I know for sure. We all do. Knowing that it’s no life worth having if you’re stuck in some protective bubble, I must accept the role I have now, to help her finance school and to cheer her from my assigned seat. It’s not as much fun as it was to be playing in the game with her all those years, side by side, fumbling at times together but always helping one another up and brushing off the dust of our daily lives, but as I was reminded by my daughter tonight when I asked one too many questions, this Mom doesn’t need to be in the middle of everything. That’s not good for either of us.

Instead of playing the game with her as her ally or even coaching her from the sidelines, it’s time for me to take my seat in the stands and to let her figure out the complications of it all by herself. If she needs me (maybe if only for some more money, or a few homemade dinners), she’ll know where I’ll be. Yeah, I know. Perhaps it’s time for me to learn how to knit. I’ll be sitting here in the stands for a while. Who knew that the toughest part of parenting would be the part when you’re expected to do as little as possible?

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