Sunday, November 28, 2010

THE ROLLER COASTER RIDE OF PARENTING

My heart drove away again today…Justin has been home with us for a week now, but he drove away this afternoon to head back for classes tomorrow. Other than Thanksgiving and decorating for the Christmas season it wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary, excitement-at-every-moment week. Life went on as normal with me and Jeff heading off to work as usual each day while Justin was here. But he was able to relax and enjoy a little down time, rejuvenate himself for the final three weeks of this semester (finals are right around the corner). I take comfort in the fact that he’ll be home again on the 17th, for almost a month.

But it’s hard each time he drives away…I woke up this morning with the kind of stomach ache one gets from riding a roller coaster, that queasy, up & down feeling that doesn’t pass until a little while after you’ve gotten off the ride. The weather isn’t helping ease my nerves at all. The snow hasn’t stopped falling all day, after being dumped on for several days in a row earlier this week. I know that Justin is a very capable and safe driver, but I worry about all of the other nuts out on the road. Today’s roller coaster ride induced stomach ache will ease when I know that Justin has arrived safely in Missoula.
View from outside our front door - Today

But this is just one of many rides we parents take…as a parent I know that my job is to raise my children so that they can grow their own wings and one day fly away. The reality is that we spend less time in our lives with our parents than we do outside in the ‘real world’. If we do our job right, most kids spend the first 18 to 24 years (or so) living and being supported by their parents, to spend the remaining 50 to 75 years out exploring the great beyond.

I know in my case I moved out of my parents house when I was 19 years old, moving just a few blocks away to an apartment and my first taste of ‘adult’ freedom. I didn’t give a second’s thought to my mom and what she might have been thinking or feeling, but I also know that I lived very close and remained a frequent visitor to my parent’s house.

Four years later, in 1990, Jeff got out of the Navy and we announced to my parents that we were packing up and moving to Missoula, Montana. I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face, or the tears in her eyes, as I backed my car out of her driveway to begin that journey. Again though, due to the excitement that existed about the adventure that lay ahead, I wasn’t thinking much about how she must have been feeling with one of her children moving so far away. It’s an interesting contrast too, I grew up in a Navy family and we were always packing up and moving every two years, we rarely lived anywhere near our relatives. It certainly wasn’t the last time I saw my mom (she’s still alive and well), we wound up living in California again (and with my folks no less) for a time in the mid-90’s, but I’m just recalling that I never gave much thought to how it feels when you watch your child drive away.

Justin - October, 1989


Justin - 2008



















Now, as a mom, with my oldest getting closer to the age when he will one day officially fly away I am realizing how precious time is and just how quickly it passes us by. Every moment that Justin is not living under our roof I feel as if I walk around with a lump in my throat, regularly experiencing that queasy stomach feeling. The reality is, with Jared, we will have one of our children with us for a while. Jared regularly says that his dreams for his future include a wife and a place of his own. Jeff and I want to see those dreams come true for him, so one day he will venture out on his own and we will officially become ‘empty-nesters’. But, in the meantime, I am very aware that I have an advantage and get to enjoy the ride a little bit longer than most parents.

I hopped on this roller coaster 21+ years ago and it’s been a fantastic ride, I don’t regret one moment of it. I just wish sometimes the ride would slow down.

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