I have had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach for months. Yes, we’ve had some upheaval in this house. First, renovations, then a new job and out-of-state move and then, like whiplash, a 180 degree turnaround to have us stay just where we are. You would think all that would have led to my churning stomach, but I am not sure that any of that was the true cause.
On the beach the other day, as I was working out theater camp-carpooling with a mom in our kid-care village, I was informed that my daughter would not be needing a ride because she had a babysitting job and then would just walk herself to camp because she would be close when her job was over. This information came from the other mom after my daughter worked it all out with her.
I had a vague recollection of The Girl telling me this plan weeks ago, and sure enough when I spoke to her she confirmed we had discussed it, but she hadn’t “reminded me of her plans” so that’s why I felt a bit in the dark.
“Thank goodness she’s trustworthy”, her father remarked, “because then at least we know she’s using her powers for good.”
We’ve worked very hard to raise self-sufficient humans, who can make good choices and listen to their conscious when necessary. I’ve taught them scheduling. I often have them contact people when they need to get rides or make changes or plan events. I talk to them (a lot, poor kids) about money and responsibility and growing up. They carry their weight around this house with chores and they know they have roles in this house and this family that must come first before fun and games or there will be way less fun and games. Basically, in small increments we prepare them to grow up and someday go out and do it all without us. The problem with this plan is that now their father and I are left with a bunch of self-sufficient humans who make good decisions without much input or counsel from us. They are prepared to go out and do it all without us and they are beginning to take full advantage of that.
Talk about an ironic twist.
This summer I am completing my internship hours to be a mental health counselor. I’m working with children and families a few days and adults the others days. My clients come with a variety of issues, some organic and unavoidable, and some based on life choices and parenting. Add this experience to the fact that nearly every day on the news there is some story about the horror of the world we live in, with circulating headlines from violence to hate to a political race that feels like it’s out of a bad spoof movie. It’s all enough to push a parent over the edge.
I spend my days fighting off the feeling that unless I am hypervigilant with my children, they are sure to face uncertain doom. All this is happening right at the time the children are growing way the heck out of any kind of vigilance on my part, most especially the hyper kind.
So sure, we have had some upheaval around this house, but the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach isn’t tied to job changes, sheet rock dust, or even new homes in a different state. Rather, the constant ache I am feeling is that of my people outgrowing their need for me in their every day lives. Gone are the days of marble jars and Mommy School. Now I leave notes of chores on my way out the door and handle negotiations for raises in allowance when I am home. Gone are playdates and preschool art. Now, I get texts when kids check in to the houses they’ve walked to on their own after they’ve spent solo time working on summer math packets. Gone are the days of me trying to sneak in a few hours of work during nap time, often sacrificing my own rest or even a meal. Now, it is the children I have to force off their computers long enough to eat.
I knew it was coming. It didn’t even happen that fast. I would never go back. I much prefer conversations around the dinner table to smashed banana on it. And I honestly could not be more proud of the people I get to live with. They are remarkable, funny and kind and really great thinkers. I just enjoy their company and I know they’ll be great contributors to the world.
But no matter how great I think living with tweens and teens is, there is a ticking clock that gets louder and louder with each passing day and the tick, tick, tick, resonates deep in my core. That is the reason for my uneasy stomach: my stomach sees the future and it is far too quiet and lonely to feel any other way than sick about it.