Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You Can't Have It Both Ways

I tripped over the skateboard in the front hallway and cursed under my breath thinking about what I would say to child #2 when I finally saw him.  “Get that damned skateboard out of the hallway!” was my first choice, something that would be followed by a litany of other crimes against humanity he had perpetrated with his strewn-about cleats, sneakers, and pieces of sports equipment.

Then, I stopped myself.

Yes, I’m the same woman who has been bemoaning the fact that child #1 leaves for college in less than two weeks, and about how fast it all went.  The same woman who laments that she wishes she could stop time and get her babies back.  I stopped, put the skateboard back where it was, and took a deep breath.  In a couple of years, unless Jim and/or I take up skateboarding, there will be no more skateboards in the front hall, no Converse All-Stars to trip over, no crumbs strewn across the countertop in the kitchen after someone makes a sandwich or a snack.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t complain about the trappings of childhood while feeling bereft about how fleeting it is.  When I think about it that way, the minor annoyances that living with children bring—no one walking the dog, stuff everywhere, dirt underfoot—now seem as trivial as they should be all the time. While they are growing up and getting older—as they should be—they are still residents here and with that comes a lot of stuff, some of seemingly annoying, but for now, I’ll take it.

A lot of my Stiletto brethren have gone through the process of letting go, so my question today is:  how do you make it easier to get through the happiest times in your child’s life while dealing with your own sadness? In other words, how do you not ruin everything with your own selfish musings on how quickly childhood goes?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. Sending your child off to college is, as Yoda or Darth Vader said, "a seismic change in the force." It's a big deal and coping with it, while trying to be happy for the child is tough. Seriously, there will be moments when you acting happy is worthy of an Academy Award.

    But it's also exciting, rewarding, fun, and yes, worrisome (yep, I used to just tell myself that the kids were in their dorm rooms at 7 pm every night!).

    It's okay if Dea sees you sad to see her go. She's sad too and nervous and a host of other emotions.

    As for the skateboard -- sometimes we just roll our eyes and put them away. And sometimes we scream and yell because "how many times have I told you..." And that's okay too, because that's how Moms are. Not perfect, not always patient, but always loving their kids.


  2. Maggie, it's hard to stay in the present moment, but that's the best way to handle this kind of vast change that I've found. Here and now, your kids are at home. Even after child #1 goes off to college, Child #2 is still at home. The more you keep yourself in the present moment and enjoy being with them, the less regret you'll have when they go.

    And on the brighter side, you'll gain some delightful adult friends as they mature. My youngest just came down to spend a week with me before taking up his first job as an assistant professor after getting his Ph.D. (He went to college young and has done it all at a young age.) What a great time we had! I can bemoan the fact that I don't have my little bunny around all the time, or I can marvel at the great young man he's become and enjoy his intelligent discussion and his snarky comments about everything. It's not all over when they grow up and go away.

  3. Marian, I have leaned on you more than I should have these past few months yet you still have the grace and patience to give me sound advice. Thank you.

    Linda, I love how you call your son your "little bunny"! And thanks for letting me know that it's not over once they leave the nest. I should know that from my relationship with my own mother but this just seems different somehow. Maggie

  4. The day before my first born went of to college, I was in supermom mode. Overseeing the packing, nagging about the unfinished details, teasing him about the amount of 'junk' he considered essential. That night after he was asleep, I tiptoed into his room, sat on the floor and watched him sleep, just like I did when he was a baby. I sat there until it was time to wake him up.

    The other day, I tripped over a carelessly discarded pair of tennies in the front hall. They belonged to my teenage grandson. Nothing ends - it just cycles back around again.

  5. LD, I like the idea of things cycling around again. That is definitely a solace. Maggie

  6. I'm from an earlier generation than most of you--my kids all moved out when they got married. A couple went to college later. I did my share of yelling about things, but it wasn't long before I had grandkids--in fact before all my other kids had gone.

    One of the grandkids that hubby and I raised while we had a care home for developmentally disabled women learned quickly to keep his things picked up--or at least in his own room.

    And I've had plenty of replacements to cuddle.

  7. Maggie, he's my youngest, and he'll always be my little bunny (though he looks suspiciously like a football player now). I love the grown people my kids have turned into. AND I love having time with my husband when we don't have to worry about the kids (which I always did, no matter where they were or with whom). Enjoy your remaining time with them, and after that, you'll enjoy your time with your spouse and with the kids as adults.

  8. Raising children to adulthood taught me you can do the right thing, and still hurt. Both cleaning up and helping them out of the nest is part of the job, and I still think being a parent is the hardest job there is.

  9. Loved this. LOVED it.

    But you know what, I have to believe the cleaning up and being aware of his surroundings lecture IS good parenting, too. Because it's teaching them to think and notice...things they need as adults, too.

    In the city with my girls this week and, while I miss the baby stuff sometimes, this stage is pretty darn cool, too.