Today is my daughter Lincoln’s last day home with me before starting 4k. I’m feeling so conflicted about it. She’s so independent, loves to socialize and she’s very excited so this is the next right step. But she’s also my baby and the child who needs the most protection in an increasingly agitated world so letting her go even a little bit feels scary.
On the other hand, she’s found a train whistle to blow incessantly for our last morning together and that’s probably a helpful reminder to me about needing some peace.
For the vast majority of my adult life, my time- in both moments and years- has been spent caring for others. Taking care of my girls and my mom, and then just when the girls got somewhat self-sufficient, Brice came along. When Brice finally got old enough to leave every morning for 4K, Lincoln was a newborn. It’s been more than 8 years since I’ve had mornings to myself. And it’s been 22+ years that I’ve been the primary caregiver for many people that I love.
The truth is, I need some time for me. For all these years, my days have been spent picking up and dropping off kids and groceries and toys and messes. Doctors and dentists and orthodontists and appointments. Because someone needs to do it. There is always a long to-do list and the one consistent thing that drops off that list is me and my needs. My work, my writing and my photography. My chance at a social life. Everyone else’s needs seem greater, or they are louder and more adamant. My needs are a silent priority so my moments for peace and quiet disappear until its far too late to do anything except head to bed so there will be energy to do it all again tomorrow.
I’m well aware that I need this time if I ever want to finish the book I keep picking at yet never give my full attention to. I need this time to pitch articles and answer emails and take pictures and read a book or even an article without interruption.
But for every door that opens, another closes. The price for the peace and silence feels like ending of an era. Because it is. Lincoln will go into school and then she’ll be gone, at least partially. Five mornings a week she will no longer be mine. She will be her own person, separate from me completely in those hours. And in another blink of an eye, she will be in kindergarten and then she’ll be gone all day. The concentric circles that make up our lives as parents will keep widening farther and farther. After 22 years of parenting, I find this a much scarier thought than I used to. After 22 years of parenting, I’m so very much defined by this role of mom. I couldn’t separate myself from it if I tried. It’s built in like rings within the tree, counting the years and generations.
And now I know that I’m going to blink and these long days of constant demands and noise and “Hey Mama!” will be replaced with the silence of their absence as the circles widen even further until eventually they have lives all their own. I know this all too well. Twenty years goes by while you are picking up and dropping off and making appointments until suddenly you are the one left behind. You- the one who sacrificed your whole life so they could have theirs.
In truth, it all feels like it’s all coming to a head. Twenty-two years ago my oldest child was born. Now she’s having a baby of her own, as my own baby picks out her clothes for her first day of school. Even my sweet “little” Brice is suddenly looking like a big 8-year-old this year. And my husband’s vasectomy looms in the shadows of later this month, like the final tipping of the scales from one part of my life to the next.
And I’m not even saying any of it is wrong or shouldn’t be this way or that its not for the best. I’m just saying it’s really hard after all these years to let it go. To move on into the phase of big kids and grandkids and more time for me and my dreams and career and maybe even a little quiet. Sometimes even the thing you want and need so badly can be so hard to face.
But for this morning, there is a loud train whistle and a little girl singing along with Frozen. And I will take it while I have it.