Raising children is so much a fabric of our society, but nobody knows how to do it. Now that my sons are in college what have I learned? After 22 years total of raising kids, it becomes 2nd nature to check to see whether everyone’s tucked in beds at night and whether textbooks (ahem, I mean laptops) are ready for school. Parenting not only grows on you, the children as hulking adolescents make me grow. When the kids skiddle off to college or to practice yoga in Mumbai, is the empty nest a syndrome inevitable? Of course saying goodbye causes some sadness. Is it the lonely nest or Â the open sky? Am I bereft or liberated?
So physically the children are gone and don’t need care. How best can parents navigate the new canopy without having kids on the brain? There’s so many subtle changes. It’s the ways you have to shift how much food to buy; how many trips to the soccer field, how many violin recitals to make way for. But it’s more insipid than that. The empty next is a psychological state. It’s not buying the food, but the jolt to our memory that we need eggs or cereal and it’s urgent. Then I realize the kids aren’t there for 7 am breakfast. I didn’t forget to pick them up at the shopping mall. So we slowly turn off the panic button to reestablish calm. Sometimes I’ve woken from a deep sleep past midnight to ask whether E. came home only to remember he’s living in Pennsylvania. I often realize that I have let my desires and skills atrophy. Guinea hens need practice to explore outside their territory. This mother hen needs to let go of her pecking. Where the wing spuds are it’s a chance to grow strong eagle wings.
Certainly I fell into some habits in the name of childrearing that I now have to reevaluate. For 20 years I wouldn’t leave the home without thinking about an emergency stash of food. I had Cheerios when they were toddlers and later energy bars. I was so thankful for plastic. Plastic bags are handy for more than scooping Dog poop. Also trash bags, hand wipes. Plastic cups didn’t shatter on the ground. I succumbed a bit to the fast foods, but after one Chuckie cheese party, I’d had enough hi cholesterol cheese. I moved from having a cardboard book available to asking the teens did they remember everything. I was the freshman when I first got to college who lost their dorm key 3 times a semester. Now I’m the harpy who asks, Did you remember a waterbottle, your cellphone? Did you forget your driver’s license? I can recite a litany of the 7 most probable items to forget before going to camp.
What else changes? A new baby is an instant alarm clock. Except the alarm goes off every 2 hours at night. Many night I only got 6 hours of sleep and usually interrupted. Isn’t that part of the Abu Garib torture strategy? I get delirious when sleep deprived and can’t remember what happened 3 hours ago. Our family was generous in sharing germs. I forget who had the sniffles last night, often kids are incubators for passing infections. Do I remember the last time I drank? I was too busy doing laundry and taking the kids out to the park. I’m sure that I peed that afternoon, but it was quick and dirty
. I poured everyone some juice but didn’t have time to drink mine.
Mostly there’s a reorientation of your brain when you are raising children. Really. The hard wiring is changed. It’s connection. You learn with each peanut butter cracker about love. You learn forgiveness. Yielding. A strength you never knew you had.
Oh, love Truth and its testimony, whether its witness be to you or against you. Love it, that into my Motherâ€™s home you all may come, and into the chamber of Her that conceived me, where you may embrace and be embracedâ€¦Love is godâ€™s name; Love is godâ€™s nature, Love is godâ€™s life.
Sarah Blackborow 1681