Nowadays, a few weeks a year have become my “collecting weeks.” With two currently in college, in geographically opposite directions, one an hour and the other five hours away, this means three days of travel and loading/unloading the car. It’s a hassle and an expense, but, to quote a popular ad, having them home is “priceless.”
There is something about having my entire family under one roof (no matter what the structure) that I find calming. This was even the case last Thanksgiving week when the last one climbed into the car to start a 12-hour journey to spend the holiday with my parents and my sister and her family. A wave of peace and contentment just washed over me the minute we were all together.
I guess in part it’s because I know where everyone is. There is no wondering about where they are if they are making good decisions. If they are with me, I know what they are doing and equally important, I have an idea of how they are doing.
Just because I love bringing them all home doesn’t mean the time is all sunshine and rainbows, though. Like many families, we occasionally clash, sometimes loudly. We disagree and grouse about differing habits (like getting up too early or too late) and having each other underfoot. When we plan to go out, the struggle to get everyone ready to leave at the same time is sometimes as real as the toddler days. Use of the car needs to be scheduled in advance and accommodations made to get everyone where they need to go.
Despite the chaos, I try to savor the moments. I am well aware that they are fleeting. The years leading up to now have gone much quicker than I could have ever expected. Though I have some responsibilities that cannot be neglected, I try to rearrange my schedule to be available. I try to get some work done in advance, so that I have a little more free time over breaks. I try to expect less of myself, knowing that in the not too distant future, my time won’t be in such demand. I try to squeeze things in early in the day (when they are usually still asleep) or complete tasks in the small pockets of time when they are busy with other things. I try (and sometimes fail) to let things go, to not think about how much I’m not getting done, how much I will have to do later, when they once again are off, learning and growing.
Impromptu lunch dates and shopping trips with my kids give me a glimpse into the new world they now occupy, a world apart from me. After spending a lifetime as the center of their universe, these insights are sometimes startling, and often fresh and enlightening. I remember watching them grow from babies to children to teens, noticing small leaps in development. Now they have grown without me around, which is fun to watch, but can be disconcerting.
Nights spent snuggling on the couch, watching favorite TV shows together, and afternoons of Netflix binging seem less decadent knowing how briefly these moments last. Sunday afternoons cheering on the NY Giants (well, one of the four joins me in that) are much more exciting than watching alone. Hiking local trails renews spirits and resolves and though I know such trips are good for me, it is easier to justify them when there is the opportunity for quality parent/child time.
While the menu planning becomes more complicated again, I become reacquainted with the foods they love and sometimes discover a change in the palate. Where tomatoes were once scorned, they are now requested. Spicy food was taboo, now the tolerance has grown. Some food that were once favorites are now just “okay.” Sometimes there are requests for new items and we are exposed to new foods as well. On occasion, this means my cooking duties are reduced or even eliminated.
The sibling relationships change too. There is a reluctant acknowledgment that the younger ones are now grown up and worthy to be part of the “big kid” conversations and activities. The alliances shift as they agree and disagree; sibling battles still crop up, yet they are fiercely protective of each other to the outside world.
During conversations, I try to figure out relationships and decipher if the friend in question is one from college or high school (my kids have a knack for finding several friends with the same first name). I hear names tossed around with familiarity, to the point where I get confused as to whether I know said person or have just heard much about him or her.
As I struggle with managing my professional goals, I try to keep in mind life goals. Sometimes it is difficult to keep the big picture in mind; the everyday can get in the way. My children aren’t little anymore; in many ways, this makes them more fun to spend time with. I know that soon, their lives will take them to new places, without me and my time with them will be minimal. So today, I choose to spend time mothering and continue to work myself out of a job.