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See, I wasn’t a mom of the nineties – waiting until well into my thirties to get pregnant so that I could be zooming around in a mini-van in my forties, hauling my grade school darlings to the perfunctory piano and swimming lessons, and then a decade later – freezing my butt off at soccer matches and amateur rocket launches in my fifties to keeps my adolescent rebels from joining gangs and tattooing their foreheads. And then probably more then ready to let them go, as my sixties loomed.
While mini-SUV’s stuffed with our peers offspring were trucking between Sunday music recitals and vogue over-the-top children’s birthday parties – my husband, Will, and I had already survived hip hop concerts in our basement and read the riot act at a host of eighteenth birthdays for young-adults-gone-wild. Of course, I didn’t feel that young. While my same-age friends were doing espressos to make it through the day, after getting up in the night with the little one’s bad dreams and winter colds, I needed a daily fix of latte and chocolate cake because one of my kids hadn’t returned a phone call in two days and another one would be calling incessantly because the road trip he was on had gotten a little sketchy.
Life is a journey and all that. But during what part of the journey was it easiest to deal with colic and a latent thumb sucker, and when have we learned all the skills necessary to convince a sixteen-year-old that they have to take pure math and that all the kids who say they’ve had sex really haven’t? I was only forty-two when my oldest daughter left our chaotic home in Calgary. I can see now that I was guilty of stalking Zoë with emails and phone calls, though it’s hard to believe I had time for stalking while still immersed in patrolling two teenage boys’ covert activities, and being a choir-mom for my youngest.
I had all these cooing babies that became boisterous teens – to fill our home and hearts and consume my time, patience and energy. For years and years, I had never thought much about them moving out and how my heart would deal with that. It was what was supposed to happen – the launch from the nest.
Zoë found her way to leave home with her copies of Love in the Time of Cholera, Harry Potter, and Dragon Quest gone from the shelves, her colourful collection of shoes gathered up from the closets, and the vanilla scented products stripped from the bathroom. Were my parents just as stunned and confused to have a child slipping out of their grasp and away from their influence? The media would have us believe that we have overindulged, overprotected and generally, now that parent is a verb, over-parented. Could this explain why I suffered from the jitters when one by one, all too quickly, my children dispersed and I desperately wished I could visit my local pharmacists and buy a patch to help ease me off them. What, I wondered, would be released for not NRT (nicotine replacement therapy), but rather CAHRT (children at home replacement therapy)? A chemical that could create the sound of their cell phones chirping incessantly, or of the front door creaking and them downloading a movie at two a.m., or produce the irritation caused by the sight of their chaotic rooms, or imitate the sensation of pleasure when one of them slowed down long enough to wrap their arms around me in a hug?
An astute observer would recognize that, though I was attempting to pull myself together, I was unable to concentrate on a task and was lumbering back and forth from one activity to the next. Bewildered, I felt like a mother bear I had seen in a film whose cub had been taken away too early. She had rolled her head from side to side, and clumped through the forest in a distressed fashion. Learning to deal with my first strayed cub my heart pounded, my sleep was uneven and I couldn’t concentrate to complete a task.
My kids say I could start my own lending library with my vast collection of parenting tomes, yet there was a void of information to guide me through these turbulent times, starting with the spring day that I scrunched up the envelope so I could see through its window that my daughter had been accepted at a university across an entire mountain range from home, until I realized I had worked myself out of a position with which I was damn comfortable.
They left home in the order they were born. Not enough time passed between Zoë, the oldest, moving out and Lily, the baby, phoning from a crowded European city to tell me how hard it was to find a place to cry out loud, the way she preferred to cry. Back up you kids, I thought. I want to run through that all again.
Zoe … Zoe leaving threw me for a loop. It’s almost thanksgiving 2010. Zoe is home for the week, sleeping right now in her renovated bedroom – with the little baby beside her who recently made me a grandma. Me?! But when Zoe left home six years ago I was the big crying baby. I’ll take you there – on Monday’s post…