Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How did this happen?

So, today we took our youngest child to the airport and put her on a plane to take her across the world back to Canada. We are now empty nesters. Shock and horror.

Two days short of 25 years ago, I began my journey into family-hood. It seemed so overwhelming then and now I find it difficult to imagine any normalcy without an entourage. It seems even more traumatic because of the distance involved. Because we are in Australia while all our family remain in North America, we have limited windows of time overlap, and can't just hop in the car to visit or have them over for Sunday dinner. I knew it would be hard, but I thought in keeping the last child near us it wouldn't be quite so bad. But now she's chosen to return to Canada for school, and it's just the two of us. In 25+ years of marriage, we only spent the first year as a couple. The rest of that time we've been "we." It will be interesting to see how we adjust to being "us" again. Thankfully we still like each other and have managed to maintain some common interests so we should survive the transition.

I suspect part of the apprehension is related to no longer being primarily responsible for the day to day nurture of another person. For 25 years someone else has needed me to make sure meals happen, the house doesn't disintegrate, clothes get washed/purchased/mended, homework gets completed, sporting events get attended, doctor/dentist/optometrist appointments are made and kept. Suddenly that's all changing, and I know it has to, but I don't know if I really like it. But every parent faces that reality at some point, so I will have to do it too.

It's probably all about the innate dread of change. We like things stable and predictable. My predictability just shifted drastically. I will have to look for purpose outside my home, and I didn't have a purpose of any substance until I created one in a home with a family. I've tried to avoid being the type of mother that "lives for her children," because I felt that was too much pressure to put on another person. I'm not a smotherer. So I've tried to give myself a life in the edges around the business of parenting, and it worked pretty well. Now I find myself confronted with enormous borders to fill around that shrunken parenting role. I have no idea exactly what will fill it all in. It's a little frightening, because I know it will fill in automatically if I don't actively choose what's going to take up the space. Fortunately I have some idea what my priorities should be in the choosing, but it's still a bit much to take in.

It must be odd for our children too. Each of them has had to deal with leaving home behind. I want to think we prepared them a little, but I know a parent never adequately prepares their child for independence. It's just a necessary part of the process in having to find your own solutions to previously invisible issues. It simply has to be that way. Billions of humans have been doing exactly that since the world began. And usually not too many people die or become horribly maimed in the process.

I think I'm just scared of being a grown-up. I could kind of put it off a little longer while being a MOM. I didn't have to be an independent entity. I could just be MOM for a while. I didn't have to decide what to do about my shelved education, job prospects, artistic endeavours. Now I have to face my new reality and actually decide what comes next. And I realize I'm a coward. The adopted self-assurance of parenting really was just bravado. I'm still the me I was before it all began. Can't run away from it anymore.

So, who knows what I'll do. Something. Lots of choices out there. I'll keep you posted.