September Takes My Breath Away

The leaves start to drop. The air is fresh. A school playground fills with shouting kids, and pick-up soccer games – and I feel melancholy, but on the edge of excitement, too. More than January, isn’t September the time of new beginnings? New grade school? College and university? Parents and kids fill backpacks with crisp notebooks and coloured pencils, then head to the malls looking for squeaky new runners? There are anticipatory trips to Ikea to deck out tiny dorm rooms or studio apartments full of furniture with funny Swedish names.
But there’s boo hooing all across the country too, for all those kids heading out the door with hockey duffles converted to super suitcases, and back packs hiding that favourite worn out stuffie, or that last  pair of sandals hopeful for another month of warm weather?

I have four young adult children who are just now getting used to my having written a book about this next stage of parenting, about all those Septembers – those goodbyes until Thanksgiving.  When Zoë, the eldest, left home, her copies of Love In the Time of CholeraHarry Potter, and Dragonquest gone from the shelves, her colorful collection of shoes gathered from the closets, and her vanilla-scented products stripped from the bathroom, I searched the self-help sections for a manual on how to let go. Now that I’m a true empty nest-er, it seems a bit odd. After all, I still had three hyped-up teens in the house. One of them leaving home should have given me a little more room to breathe. But it didn’t. It took my breath away. photo

I was able to relive it all, writing Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two boys, One Empty Nest.  (Hey kids – I gave you pseudonyms – relax.  Nobody knows who this Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily that I write about are.) If you’ve been following my erratic blog, I’d love it if you check out my book.  It’s been one hec of a ride. And if one of yours has packed up and will be spending winter and spring in another part of the country, or maybe another country – it’ll be okay.  Really.

 

Pop. Pop. Pop. Went the Bubble Wrap.

Let me think? Was I a bubble wrapper? When our eldest daughter, Zoë, was first accepted into university, I was still focused on running around raising four kids – from tweens to this very young adult. I had only just begun to worry about Zoë leaving home, and was surprised to feel so jittery, and off balanced. That summer before we drove her a thousand kilometers away, I thought about her room being empty or her friends not hanging around our family room and I’d try to hide my teary eyes. Hec, when I imagined our Zoë roaming along Vancouver’s Commercial or Main Street, discovering Wreck Beach (the infamous nude beach) or just searching for eccentric, like-minded friends, I felt like I nervously needed to speed write an ‘independence manual’. It made me think about dropping her off the first day of kindergarten, and walking home across the playground with her two little brothers, four-year-old Cole, trotting along beside the stroller with not quite two-year-old Hudson in it (five months pregnant with her sister, Lily – I know, I know -it seems impossible to me now, too.) and I remember thinking, “That’s that. Zoë is part of another world of influence now. She’s not just ours anymore.”

rose's bubblewrap

Did I become a hovering helicopter mom in response to those emotions? Back then we were all ‘bubble wrapping’ if we compared ourselves to the moms that brought us up. My kids were lucky to grow up in a calm residential area with a few kids in almost every other house. Even still as parents we tracked them with rules and landline calls from house to house. When I was a kid growing up in the same area, we ran out during the day and were allowed to roam free until the street lights came on or dinner time approached. My own mother was a very good mom, more devoted to hardy meals, and cleanliness then I ever was, but the boundaries around ‘watching out for your kids’ were so wide and free and quite literally liberating. At age say, ten or eleven, I could report that I was going on a bike ride and go off, limited mostly by my own sense of adventure. We were truly free range children. When my mom did express concern for my late arrival I used the lame excuse that my watch quit or I wasn’t near a pay phone .
But as Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily approached their late teens we bought them cell phones (our household cell bill could almost pay a college kid’s cheap rent back then) and voila – I could call them home, or check on the late night party, or simply request that they – “Text me, love Mom”.
Maybe I hovered closer to the others after I had to think about Zoë out of our grasp in a far, far away city, especially if she was ignoring my annoying texts. And as the three kids talked about travels around the freaking world and got into the vices that kids get into, I was forced to listen to the pop, pop, pop of all my bubble wrapping love.
As much as they might have caused me to ‘come undone’ during the stories in Text Me, Love Mom, my four artistic kids are all helping me out in this new era of on-line everything. The boys wanted to (okay – I pestered them a bit) make short-short YouTube bits from the book – which were a blast to do and are coming soon. My eldest daughter painted the beautiful cover of the book and now here is my youngest, through her Midnight Train Photography – http://www.midnighttrain.ca offering a playful look at this journey. Love you kids.

Please click on the following links to order Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – about the ‘next stage of parenting’, when the kids leave home, come of age, and the family gets its bearings again.

Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Indigo/Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html

In the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

shea_allan@hotmail.com

contact via twitter @SheaProulx