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Toward the exit lane of parenting
An offering as you merge right
Welcome to Parent of Adults, a newsletter for parents who wonder what’s beyond the empty nest. Subscribe! Let’s keep each other company as we stumble toward whatever’s next. 🤷🏽♀️
I had something else planned for you today, but then I came across this beautiful 💔 of an Instagram post by, whose oldest kid is preparing for college. Rebecca’s caption reminded me of something I wrote long ago. I dug through my old blog posts and found the original version of this essay from April 2019 — posted four years ago almost to the day.
It was Spring of Mirabai’s sophomore year of high school. Sam was in his second semester of college. By then we were settled back into familiar routines and were used to three at the dinner table instead of four. College was still years away for Mirabai. But I sensed the enormity of what lay ahead…
I couldn’t know that in nine months the world as I knew it would disappear with the sudden loss of my Dad followed weeks later by the pandemic. Mirabai’s senior year took place on a computer in our living room. COVID defined her college departure.
The reality of all that has softened now. I’m so grateful Rebecca’s post reminded me to remember the poignant joy of this moment.
They say parenting never ends. I suppose that’s true, but as one who’s approaching the offramp, I can tell the scenery’s about to change.
My son is in college and my daughter is soon to follow. I’m still on the freeway, but I’m decelerating. The turn signal’s flashing as I prepare to change lanes. Slower traffic keep right.
The phrase empty nest is misleading. It strikes me as minimizing, patronizing even, and doesn’t hint at the bittersweet beauty of this time. Children aren’t chicks who fly away leaving us hapless mama birds wondering what the hell happened. Their departure takes longer and begins earlier, with each little step toward independence and self-knowledge.
It’s more like the long goodbye.
I love parenting teens. My kids have grown into fascinating people, and I’ve grown into myself as a mother and a woman. Asha-me and Mom-me walk hand in hand. During the early years, we were in hand-to-hand combat.
There’s so much to talk about with my kids. Movies to watch without worrying if they’re too scary. Off-color jokes to tell. Frank conversations about drugs and sex and money. Current events to discuss. Wisdom to impart — a joy of getting older is realizing you’ve gotten wiser.
Asha-me and Mom-me walk hand in hand. During the early years, we were in hand-to-hand combat.
For sure, it’s not all glowing sunsets and neatly-closed loops. Saying goodbye to my son on a college campus thousands of miles away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. My gaze catches on the curve of my daughter’s cheekbone. I’m grasping at something I can’t hold.
The background noise of our family life grows fainter.
I listen more closely now, alert to the rhythms, aware of the silences.
Tick, tick, tick goes the signal as I make my way toward the exit.