This post was written two years ago, and now, youngest daughter, Megan, awaits the birth of her first child. I’ve adjusted to her being a married woman, but the feelings below are just as relevant today. She’ll always be my baby, and I think she’s just about to learn exactly what that means!
I’m just not ready.
It’s July, and for Americans, that means Independence Day, which, at its start, signified a young country breaking away from a really cranky parent—a.k.a. England.
As with any separation between parent and child, our nation’s move towards independence was fraught with tension, ultimatums, yelling, and fighting. The young one wants to be on his or her own, the parent doesn’t think they’re ready and/or doesn’t want to give up control, and, well, there are fireworks—just not the fun kind.
But if we’re honest, as parents, it’s our job to raise our kids to be independent, to learn to care for themselves, make their own decisions and ultimately, to leave home. If we’re lucky, the fighting leading up to it doesn’t involve muskets or cannonballs.
This July 17th, I will be achieving that parental goal, as my youngest child, daughter Megan, marries her fiancé Jimmy, and leaves me, her mommy, alone, without my baby at home, where I will spend my evenings crying on the couch.
So much for parental goals.
The truth is, I adore my kids. I make a lot of noise about the fact that it’s taken almost three decades for them to spread their wings and fly away (or, as I’ve said in those moments when their chaos threatens to overtake my life, “Get the hell out of here!”), but I don’t think I’m ready for Meg to leave. In fact, I know I’m not. The mere thought brings me to tears, and pardon any typos in this column, because I’m crying now.
It’s not that she’s not ready. Megan is twenty-five and has been dating Jimmy for almost ten years, since both were in high school. They are perfectly suited to one another and Jimmy is wonderful, as is his family.
Nor is it that I want to retain control over Meg’s life. I’ve always raised my kids to be independent, and to live their lives as confident, kind and productive human beings. (Plus, I’m really good at getting all three of my children to do whatever I want by planting a small seed via a seemingly innocuous comment or observation. As my son, David, observes, “Mom can mind-***k anybody.” It’s a gift.)
The truth is less complicated than any of that. I just don’t want her to go. Meg is the last of my children to leave home. All three of the kids lived away at college, but as any parent who has enjoyed that temporary respite knows, they come back, often with prickly attitudes and copious amounts of junk.
But then, when the realities of grown-up life set in, they start to get it—“it” being that adulthood is hard, and mommy and daddy have been a pretty good safety net and not totally terrible roommates. That’s when having adult children at home can actually be, dare I say it, fun.
Meg and I will often cook dinner together, sharing a glass of wine at the end of the day. We do yoga together in the morning, either attending a class or moving the furniture in the family room and unrolling our mats in front of our Buddha statue, grousing when one of us seems to be having a more flexible, yoga-friendly day than the other. When her E.R. hospital schedule allows, we’re sometimes ladies who lunch. And then shop, and then get ice cream, and then bemoan the extra calories while pledging to do some cardio instead of a downward dog the following day. We binge-watch episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, or sit through another viewing of Pitch Perfect for the umpteenth time, reciting lines and singing along.
In short, my daughter is also my friend, and I guess I’m just a little afraid that I’m going to lose that.
But it’s what has to happen, and although I will cry, I will also be happy that I’ve somehow, in spite of all my crazy, managed to raise three amazing humans who are a blessing both to me and the world in general.
Plus, it’s not like any of them will be far. Megan and Jimmy, along with my son, David, and his wife, Kelly, have all bought houses within fifteen minutes of my home. And middle daughter, Laura, is moving home from Florida shortly. Although she’s unsure of her permanent residence, it will be closer than a plane ride away for sure.
So this July, I will celebrate my children’s independence, as well as my own. And we’ll all enjoy the fireworks together.