giving your kids space

More tears are shed during the month of September than any other month of the year.

My research is founded on 1) sitting here at my desk thinking about it, 2) heartily agreeing with myself, and 3) standing in parking lots from preschool to college every September, crying because my kids were leaving me.

I’m also certain that more wine is consumed in the month of September than in any other month of the year. In the U.S. Well, in my house. By me. While crying. Although that data could be skewed because I do most of my drinking and eating (and living my life) while crying.

I do not heart separation. I do not heart change. I do not heart adjustment. I pretty much just heart staying at home with everyone I love, in our jammies, watching TV, and being safe. Had I known that being a parent demands the ability (whether you possess it or not) to let go of your safety net, I would not have so cavalierly slept around.

Wait. I don’t know why I went there. Time to put the wine away.

I thought I was going to be a super-chill mom. Because I was a Santa Cruz hippie and I played the guitar. And I wore long skirts made of Indian bedspreads and I used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap. So, yeah, motherhood was going to be chill.

As it turned out, I was the mom who sat in my car in front of the preschool and cried for three hours every day while my son was in class. I was the mom who told my child he had a fever (he was fine) so I wouldn’t have to send him on a class overnight to Leo Carrillo Beach in third grade. And I was the mom who had a teeny little breakdown leaving her youngest son at Georgetown University and had to breathe into a brown paper bag, keening, all the way home to Oregon while my husband Robin looked into his future with me and surely allowed himself a few deep regrets. Not exactly the carefree, be naked all the time, have sex on the kitchen table, Empty Nest years he had hoped for. I was a mess.

I still am at times.

But if 11 years of therapy, 19 dozen Prozac refills, seven pallets of wine, 42 gallons of tears, and a box of Garden Vegetable Wheat Thins with Laughing Cow cheese have taught me anything, it’s that I don’t need to change. I am totally healthy.

I do love: Staying at home with everyone I love, in our jammies, watching TV, and being safe.

I don’t love:

Separation

Change

Adjustment

HAH. I joke.

But not really.

Because I don’t need to change how I feel. I don’t have to become a different person. I get to still be my hand-wringing, paper-bag-breathing, self-medicating, over-eating, neurotic self. I just can’t allow all that to dictate how I actually raise my kids. The burden is on me to parent outside my comfort zone.

Which sucks.

But not as much as it used to.

For me, help has came in the person of trusted other people. You know how all the parenting books tell you to trust your gut?

Yeah. No.

That advice didn’t work for me because my gut has a very limited vocabulary of one word: no. Sometimes my gut adds, “Are you kidding me? NO!” In any case, trusting my gut would have resulted in wrapping my children in rainbow bubbles with unicorn secret service agents and keeping them, I don’t know, on my keychain.

You get the idea. They would not have thrived.

 

“I was the mom who told my child he had a fever (he was fine) so I wouldn’t have to send him on a class overnight to Leo Carrillo Beach in third grade.”

So I have allowed myself to listen to other people. It was hard at first, because nobody was saying what I wanted them to say (which was “You are absolutely correct about everything. Trust your gut.”) I didn’t always take their advice but I did learn to open my mind to listen and consider. My mom, my sister, my husband, my cousin Adam, and a handful of friends helped nudge me a few inches outside my comfort zone when I needed the nudge. Which was pretty much all the damn time.

I’m finally at a point where I can joke with my kids about my neuroses. When I drop them off at the airport now to return to their own homes and their own lives in faraway states, I tell them, “Call me every five minutes, promise? Every day. For the rest of your lives, so I’ll know you’re okay, okay?”

And I laugh merrily at my joke.

And they laugh merrily at my “joke” and tell me no, they will not do that.

And I say, “Then will you call me when you land, at least? And then, when you get to your apartments?”

And they say, “Bye, Mom.”

And I know I’ve done a good job because they can leave so easily.

And then I cry. But not as much as I used to.

Because now I keep an extra box of Wheat Thins in the car. And Robin will be waiting at home with the wine.

And he’ll probably be naked.

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