I’ve been watching friends drop their children off at college in the last few weeks, and my heart is full of so many thoughts and feelings as I know my turn is not far off. My daughter is a high school junior this year, and my son is in eighth grade. I realize the next five years of our life will fly by, and suddenly both kids will be out the door, leaving me to figure out what to do with myself after focusing my life on raising two functioning human beings for the last twenty years.
Chapters come and go in life, but they also tend to be long. Or at least feel long while you’re in them. The long days and short years of having littles — wow did that fly by, from helpless infant to tornado toddlers, the endless wiping of butts until one day suddenly the only butt you’re wiping is your own, to soccer games and horseback riding lessons and show choir competitions, and them BAM! It’s done. All of the energy and love you’ve poured into making it all happen is done, and then it’s time to mother in a whole new way, as an adult to another adult. Another adult who you still love with all your being but no longer needs you in any of the ways they needed you before. That chapter closes, and it all changes.
I understand from talking with friends who have gone before me that this is all good and normal. I suspect the degree to which we submerge ourselves in our mothering will affect the transition time when mothering changes completely and forever from what it was to the new normal. This has got me thinking about a few things as I prepare to shift from being the mother of children to being the mother of adults.
As the kids have gotten older, I’ve been more intentional about spending some time with my own friends, building a network of people who I thoroughly enjoy and can be real with, who are willing to laugh, cry, and simply be there. Time for a glass of wine? Come on over, even if it’s just for a quick hour. At first it felt like a guilty pleasure, after focusing so much energy on all things “mom,” but it has been so worth it. And when my grown kids are out making their place in the world, I will have someone to cry and celebrate with and pour my next glass.
As hard as it can be to let my kids grow up, given all we tend to know these days about what’s going on in this crazy, scary world, I remind myself that my job is to help my kids succeed without me. This is actually what we’re raising them for, to be functioning, contributing members of society who help leave this world a better place than they found it. This means I have to give them responsibility and consequences and let them experience some of the messiness of life while they’re still here with me so that they’re prepared before they leave to handle what comes their way. They’ve learned how to maneuver the world while we’re still nearby coaching them, throwing out options they hadn’t considered, and offering perspective they simply couldn’t have yet known. When my kids walk out that door, with all the variables in life that we have no control over, I want to know that I gave my kids the tools they need to do the best they can in whatever situation they find themselves in. It’s all I can ask of them, and really, of myself.
I wonder what being the mother of an adult actually looks like, how that plays out in real life for me and my people. I hope to stay close with them, but our relationship will inevitably change, and I will need to be able to change and adapt with it or it will change for the worse. Learning to respect their uniqueness and preferences for running their own lives, just as I do with my friends, will be vital if I want to vacation in Cancun with them and post pictures on fb of us all laughing and enjoying our time together.
Lastly, just as I am so proud of who my kids are and excited to see what adventures their next chapter in life will bring them, I need to have that same vision for my own next chapter in life. After focusing on juggling other people’s needs for so long, it’s time to start dreaming about the what if’s of my own life. Who am I now? What do I want to do? Who do I want to help, and who do I want to still become? How do I make this happen? All of the same questions I’ve encouraged my kids to figure out as they discern their call into this big world that could use some more light and love thrown at it.
Through all of the chapters of life, mothering my two children has been a highlight. They are great people, and I look forward to spending every minute I can with them in the next five years, continuing to invest in who they are and helping them discover who they want to be, all while looking forward to doing the same for myself as they leave the nest. It’s a special time of life where we’re all getting ready for the next chapter of life, and each day, I am simply grateful to be their mom.
Lori Wright is a wife, mother, and lover of great coffee. She loves to read, watch show choir, and breathe ocean air with the sun on her face.