We hear so much about women and transitions today. In the news, on blogs, in magazine articles and in conversation with our peers. Why are we talking about it so much these days and what are we talking about? It is a word that I had never given much thought of, until the last year. We as women, deal with many transitions in our lifetime: from graduating from your local high school to heading off to college or starting full time employment, to getting married and becoming one half of a couple, to having children and becoming a mother, to letting those same children go as they grow up and start their own path of transitions. We bury our parents, sometimes our friends… the same age as us, with kids the same age as our own. In God awful times…sometimes our own children or our spouse. I have yet to experience all of the above heart wrenching transitions that I have spoken of but I know enough women who have, to know that each and every one of them comes with a whole slew of emotions and coping mechanisms that they use to move forward, to cope and to survive.
We have no choice. It is the circle of life, one in which is natural and continuous and has gone on since the beginning of civilization. Well, maybe not the going off to college part. While all of that is a reality, it does not make it any less difficult. We will all go through many of the above and we will look forward to some with baited breath and excitement; the birth of a baby, your marriage. With trepidation, your first born leaving the nest. With downright fear and unknowing; the death of a loved one. Each transitional moment in our lives changes us in some way, some subtle, some profound. They add layers of depth and the breadth of experience that each woman carries along with her.
I started writing this post right after coming home from our daughter’s last Parents Weekend, being that she is in her Senior year in college. I continued writing it as I went through a Halloween that was so far removed from what I have been used to and now I try to wrap it up as I look forward to children coming home for the Thanksgiving Holiday. These all have generated in me a need to speak to the emotions and experiences of the transition of your children leaving home. Maybe it is the fact that my first born did not leave the nest until this September at the age of 23. Maybe it is the fact that three of my children left all at the same time. Maybe it is the fact that as your first born flies the coop, your own identity suffers a little bit. It is not that you love your first born more, it is just that your identify is wrapped more tightly around them in some respects. After all, it was their being brought into the world that changed your identity from a woman to a woman who is also now known as “mom.” They are the ones you experienced a whole new set of firsts with. Maybe it was daycare and leaving them in the care of someone else as you headed to work. Sending them off “all alone” on a school bus to the first day of Kindergarten, their first field trip, their first sleepover, date etc. You experience these firsts with every one of your successive children, if you have more than one. With each one, those firsts become a little bit easier, a little like old hat, a little like “been there done that,” and I survived and so did they, kind of mentality. It is kind of akin to when your firstborn drops his/her pacifier on the ground and you and your husband smack heads as you both dive to retrieve it and duck it under the closest source of water to sterilize it. Usually with baby #2, 3, 4… you pop the bugger in your own mouth to “sterilize” it so as to push it back into the unhappy child’s mouth from whence it came. Or like how child #2 (well maybe not that soon) definitely #3, #4, and #5 do not have nearly as many photos of them as the first. Time and the lack there of, has an uncanny way of catching up with you and maintaining the crazy documentation that one does as a new parent.
What was I thinking? Of course we have a picture of #5, the day after he was born… and that is about it. (Sorry Cam!)
All that being said, my firstborn flew the coop a little more than two months ago, along with my second born who left for her final year of college as well as my third who was leaving two years behind schedule for college. Wait a second you say, your daughter left for college three and half years ago. Why emotional now??? I think I would have to answer in that my first born was still at home and so were so many others that there was still a mad level of chaos going on. Take a look at the faces on the photos I have posted and you might understand that chaos. Who had time to feel anything… but tired? Now that three have exited, things are radically different around here and I am in transition…big time. Can you guess how?
All three are on paths to fulfill their own future and take part in their own “story.” We are thrilled for them and yet there is a sadness, a melancholy in this transition. I have to be honest with you, I miss the chaos that ensues with five children under the same roof. The four or more different conversations all going on at the same time. The family dinners and believe it or not, the cooking for the family dinners. I mean, how does one scale down easily to cook for three and half people from seven? The leftovers are ridiculous and tiring to eat as often as we now do for it takes us three nights to eat what once took us one. (My youngest eats practically nothing.) I miss the hustle and bustle, the camaraderie. We no longer travel as the family unit as we once did. We feel a bit fragmented…a bit incomplete. I would be a bit daft to deny that there are a few things that I do not miss but I do miss our family unit, even if we did dress up like the cast of characters from Shrek on an occasional Halloween or two.
Halloween was experienced in a whole different manner this year which only cemented this feeling and the passing of the years stood out even more. No trick or treaters in our house were to be found. The thirteen year old would have gone had he had anyone besides mom and dad to go with. He attends a school that is not close to our house and the kids come from afar so getting together for a night of trick or treating is difficult as the years of a newly anointed teenager are calling. It is not like he can just run out the front door and catch up with the neighbors…we have none.
I reminisced about Halloweens in the past, the fun and frantic prep that was put into the costumes. The school parades, the dinners made out of mini hotdogs wrapped in crescent rolls and then squirted with ketchup to emulate blood…ewe gross. Most of you know me and know a little fact about me, I like to be creative. Well the apple does not fall far from the tree so we had little trick or treaters that went out as bathtubs, Christmas trees, the Grinch and Cindy Lu Who, a gingerbread man, a French artist, a waiter and a log. Unfortunately the log never got to make his debut for he was loosing his cookies that night but you can get the picture. We almost always got a shot of the kids as a whole before they headed off to trick or treat…together. It was a family affair and guess who was steering the ship? Guess who no longer needs to steer the ship with such a firm hand on the wheel? Now what do I do? Ha! That is for another post on reinventing oneself which will be coming soon.
And then there were three…
And then there were four…and I do not remember Aidan loving this Halloween so much.
And then there were five… and there were very few pictures.
Twenty something years of Halloweens where at least one kiddo dressed up like something, twenty three years of traveling like a pack, twenty three years of your identity being rooted strongly in the development and everyday happenings of raising children into identities of their own as you directed in front of the camera AND behind the scenes. This year there were no Halloween festivities…symbolic?
Transition is change and change is difficult, that we know, but how come we often overlook the fun that we are having while we are living it?
I mean, come on, they look like they were having fun on Christmas morning. I look like I needed a nap…and a new sweatshirt. Please don’t hold it against me for it was the 90’s.
As our children grow and turn into teenagers we can all admit that they know everything and we can also admit that on more than one occasion we have secretly dreamed of how different our lives would be when they left for college. When our everyday existence was not wrapped around them. How ironic is it that you sometimes found yourself counting those days until it came to fruition and now you find yourself counting the days until they come home again.
In transition and dealing with it