This summer both of my daughters left home to go to school.
My youngest left at the tender age of 15 to attend a Performing Arts High School in a small city a one and a half hour canyon ride away; my oldest is now at a small liberal arts college on the East Coast. The anticipatory grief was great—I worried for months about how my husband and I would cope with the quiet, but we’ve astounded ourselves by feeling some true joy about it all.
For 18 years we’ve parented and we still are, but less!
1. We always have towels on the shelf. Don’t underestimate the pleasure potential of a dry and clean towel. Really.
2. Um. My kids might read this, so I will leave it just like this and I assume you all know what I mean— yes, no more locked doors and tiny, tiny, whispered sounds.
3. If we don’t really feel like cooking, and all we have for dinner is guacamole and chips, well then it’s fine and I don’t feel guilty. The other night we had a Caprese salad and it was all I wanted. Perfect.
4. We can talk about everything and everyone all the time, and not just behind closed doors—in the best way, of course. There’s just no need to censor conversations anymore.
5. Less distress. I really thought I would be besides myself with anxiety about the kids’ wellbeing and safety, but now I truly worry less. It’s not out of sight out of mind—but I don’t interpret every sad face, or quiet moment to be a problem. The kids share what they choose to and I interpret less. Because I am a doomsday thinker, a worst-case scenario type of mama, this is very helpful for me.
6. I get to just be me, not the mama and I don’t have to model everything all the time. I am a true believer in modeling a lifestyle that you want your kids to emulate. This can, however, be quite exhausting at times. I have been okay with having a messier bedroom floor and to get behind on a few things in order to drink coffee in my pajamas and read a book on my red couch all day.
7. I get to send packages. Yup. I love it. I buy one of those prepaid priority mailers and get to think about what may bring joy to my daughter from the desert.
8. I walk around the house nekked. It’s true. Go ahead and judge me harshly for being too modest to do it while the kids were here but I just couldn’t. Too shy.
9. Oh, I almost forgot! Now I get to buy that sea salt caramel gelato that I love. I get to eat it, too.
10. Best of all, my idealization and adoration of my sweet, insanely beautiful daughters doesn’t get marred by any actual discussion about washing the dishes. That is the truth!.
I know if I keep repeating these things to myself, I’ll start to miss them less—ha!
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Assistant Ed: Kathryn Ashworth/Ed: Bryonie Wise