You hear this from almost the minute your baby’s born: “Enjoy every moment because before you know it, they will be grown and gone.” I used to hate hearing that when my kids were little. It was almost always well-intentioned older ladies who would utter those words. Yet even then I was sure that they were speaking from personal experience, and I understood the painful truth; I just didn’t want the reminder. As much as I tried to avoid thinking about it, the inevitable has come true, and I am now the mother of four adults and three more who will be soon.
Just yesterday, my oldest was building things with Legos; he now lives in Argentina and we only get to see him once or twice a year. The sister he used to tease by misbehaving in the historical plays she would put on with her younger siblings is now in a PhD program six hours away by car. Even though I’ve adjusted to the concept of my kids coming and going since the eldest first went to college more than eight years ago, it still feels unnatural when they say goodbye and leave.
Would it be normal for us all to stay together forever? No, of course not. I get that. But there’s something antithetical about a mother nurturing a young one from the time she finds out that she’s expecting, tending to all the young one’s needs, and then all the sudden, it’s over. I’ll admit that I’m one of those mothers who is happiest when her kids are close at hand, even though the noise can sometimes be maddening. I remember being shocked and appalled by a neighbor who said that she couldn’t wait to get her kids back on the bus in the fall. I simply didn’t understand that kind of attitude.
The son who lives in Argentina was here for a visit during the holidays. It took me almost two weeks after he left to get up the strength to strip the bedding from the futon he used, removing the last evidence of his stay. The air mattress that another child recently used to make a bed available for her visiting sister is in its case but still not put away. In the meantime, I try to focus on the positive: our third child temporarily moved back home while she is in grad school, and our fourth is in college less than an hour away. I will try not to think about my fifth going off to college in the fall, the sixth taking drivers’ ed soon, or how grown up my baby is starting to look. Life is tough, and I’m afraid to say that I’m a wimp. Oh, and when I see young mothers with small children, I bite my tongue.