Not Quite What I Expected

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Here’s a throwback piece from last summer. Because I am thinking of summer and baseball season and the sheer improbability that I am the mother of a fifteen-year-old.

June 3, 2015

I woke up this morning and peeled off the sticker to show the start day. I covered up Sunday with Wednesday, the seven days of each week feeling exactly like the number of parenting days I have left.

The afternoon became sunny, with the haze of blackflies that signifies early June in Maine. The boys lost, again, but it was less painful for all of us this time around. They piled into my car, one seatbelt short, and joked as the two skinniest ones strapped in together. We decide to stop at Dairy Queen, me and the four uniform-clad middle school boys. They smelled of spring: sweat and bug spray and hair gel and dirt, and I realized that I can count the days I will have like this.

 

I think back to the interminable years of early-middle childhood. The ones where I skipped over sentences to finish the bedtime book sooner, or when I was on the couch reading instead of playing Lego. The parenting hourglass seemed full, heavy and oppressive; now it is no longer top-heavy, and the sand is moving faster, faster, faster and I hold my breath willing it to stop.

It is June, the school year is winding down, and the enormity of life hits me like the proverbial wall in the last four miles of a marathon. Except – I’m not ready for this to be over. My legs are fresh and I JUST hit my stride. But I can see the trajectory now: instead of arguing over too much screen time and the dangers of drinking soda, we will be talking about grades, drinking, drugs; learning to drive, safe and respectful sex, SATs; choosing a college, a career, and finding time to visit. Like love in a John Green novel, my parenting days have unfurled slowly, then all at once.

I placed the small, yellow pill on my tongue and swallowed dry; knowing this was the right choice, but mourning what might have been. My imaginary minivan, Disney vacations, and family meetings; the loudest cheering section for every soccer game, comically lost and forgotten siblings; and the sweet, slow burn of controlled chaos. Moving seamlessly from parenting to grandparenting with too many animals, my husband and I having just enough time for a quick grope as we pass in the kitchen.

My parenting time has been quiet, if not lonely. In solo parenting, you are The One: the designated worrier, disciplinarian, parent-teacher conference goer, and tucker-inner. If you go down – no one is there to lift you up. And that is okay. It is okay for our kids to see us as humans. We learn to apologize and explain. We become kinder to ourselves and to others. We know that everyone has a story.

I never planned on being mom to an only, and maybe there will be more. Eventually.  My decision to be done, for now, is a cross section of pragmatism, biology, and acceptance; acknowledging that another, also rich, life is possible even if it is not the one I had imagined.

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