|Halee trying on her cap & gown!|
At first I checked the mirror to see if I was looking as exhausted as I felt. Were my bags baggier or was my hair disheveled? Did my eyes look especially crazed revealing sleep deprivation?
Honestly, I didn't think I looked any more worse than normal so what was with all the sudden concern? Then it dawned on me, because I am the mother of a high school senior my friends are looking at me for the onset of empty nest syndrome.
When I assure everyone that I am well, my daughter is doing well, and we are very excited for her, I get an obligatory nod and, "Yeah but this is her last (fill in the blank)" which is a strange thing to say as I've mastered the concept of a calendar since Mrs. Harvey's afternoon kindergarten class.
I am fully aware that this is her last prom and her last days of high school. But we've been having lasts for years around here. She lost her last tooth when she was twelve years old. I attended her last field trip in sixth grade and the last time she sat on my lap was during bedtime in 2002.
In other words, my entire parenting career has been one long crescendo up to this very minute.
When she was my baby and we weaned her from the bottle it was so she would grow less dependent on me. When I allowed her to dress herself in some pretty absurd outfits, it was so she could practice making her own decisions. When I sat at the table and drilled her on multiplication facts it was to lay a foundation for the bank account she'd someday have to manage. And when I took her to the Department of Motor Vehicles and she passed her driver's license exam it was because I want her to move on and carve her own path in the world.
So am I ok? Yes. We've been working toward this moment her whole life.
That's not to say I'm not sad to see her go. Oh I am! She's a fantastic kid and the family dynamics will change greatly without her daily presence in our home. But also because she's a fantastic kid, she has a super bright future ahead of her.
Yes, I've done almost nothing except mother her for eighteen solid years. I've taken care of her, braided her hair, wiped her tears, put band aids on invisible boo-boos and marked her height on the dining room wall. But mothering is more than the caring for the child. It's been my task to prepare her as well. This moment in time - graduation season - isn't really about me and what I can't do for her anymore. It's time to see if the bird can fly. And since we're expecting a successful launch, it doesn't feel right to grieve this season. Instead I think we should celebrate.
My daughter wants to leave the nest. This is fine by me since I want her to want to leave. I mean the alternative is not really a viable option. If she wasn't ready to launch I'd be renovating my basement and charging her rent while she dines on pizza delivery. And no one is interested in that scenario.
No, instead we are planning for graduation, we take prom pictures and when she's out of earshot her siblings squabble over who is going to get her room when she's gone. Because while we will all miss her presence in our home, everyone is desperately aware the nest is about to get a little more elbow room. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That’s why!
Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District providing services to area families with children ages birth to kindergarten. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org