I’m not sure yet what the hardest part of being a parent is because I’m not done, but letting your children go has to be one of them. Watching them make their own sometimes poor decisions is a big piece of that. I miss the days when they were young and I had near total control over their lives. Things may not have always worked out perfectly, but at least I didn’t have the uncertainty of wondering whether it would. Now, I have to sit on my hands, watching and holding my breath, desperately caring about the outcome but with no control over it. I know why it’s supposed to be this way, and intellectually I know it’s good for them, but I still hate it down to my gut. So far my kids seem to have relatively good judgment, but it’s still early.
The other rough part of having your children grow up is missing them when they’re gone. Virtually all of my empty nester friends say how great it is to be free of the restrictions of kids when they leave home, but I’m struggling to believe them. We hate every day that our son is 1800 miles away and already dread the day our youngest graduates from high school in only 8 years. We’re not remotely ready, even though people say we will be when it’s time. Most friends our age are already there – our parental journey is lasting longer than most, and we’re still not ready. Our kids are such neat, smart, and funny people – they fill our house with noise and laughter and love. It will be awfully, awfully quiet when they’re gone.
I’m intrigued to see what my children make of their lives, and I’m eager to experience being a grandparent. But not any time soon. For now, I’m perfectly content to have kids to nag to keep their rooms clean, and to deal with moody teenagers, and wonder what happened to all the groceries we bought just a few days ago. Soon enough, the house will be spotless and peaceful…and lonely. Until then, we’ll have s’mores and go to the drive-in movie and have deep discussions while we shop. I want to pack in as many memories as I can so I can replay my own movie reel in my mind when the house grows quiet.
“Kids are a great analogy. You want your kids to grow up, and you don’t want your kids to grow up. You want your kids to become independent of you, but its a parent’s worst nightmare: that they won’t need you. It’s like the real tragedy of parenting.” –Jonathan Safran Foer