In my memory, I cannot think of a more seismic shift in our marriage than when we had children. The first sign that our world was about to be rocked actually happened when our first bun was still in the oven and we were standing outside of a Denver bar. It wasn’t late, we were with good friends, and good times were being had by all, especially by those (not me) enjoying a night of craft beer and pool. By that point in my pregnancy, my body was changing and bulging, I had given up caffeine, alcohol, and hot baths and traded them for binge-eating apples. My pregnancy and impending motherhood were feeling tangibly real in a way that it wasn’t (yet) for my husband. And that night, with festivities just warming up, I was standing by the car asking my husband not to go in and to come home with me instead because I was exhausted and sick with pregnancy. If you ask him now, he doesn’t remember that night. I do. In his eyes and in his body-language was a man coming to terms with our new and changing reality. As we looked at each other we silently acknowledged that our lives would never be the same. What we want, what we do, how we see the world, and how we prioritize our lives no longer involved just the two of us. There was going to be a third member of our family, and eventually a fourth, and nothing, ever, not even a night out with friends, would be quite so simple any more.
For more than twenty-two years, we have been in active parenting mode. Sometimes just trying, for the love of God, to please hold it together in the midst of long days, sleepless nights, and normal household chaos. Sometimes surfing those blessed stretches of good times when everyone was happy, getting along, and doing their thing. Along the way, milestones – too many to count – have passed us by and have brought us to this moment.
Our daughter is setting up life in Southern California as a full-fledged adult with a college diploma in her pocket, and our 6-foot-1-inch baby boy is about ready to leave the nest and fly north to join the rest of his new flock at college. And now, wherever we go, when the topic comes up, there is exactly ONE question that everyone wants to know: What are you going to DO??
Well, to start: We got a puppy, signed up for a Fall marathon, have taken a sudden interest in “cooking for two” recipes, and booked our first family trip to be with the kids.
Compensating much? Maybe.
The reality for me is that I need something to balance out the fact that leaving my child behind as I drove away from her college town four years ago went against every motherly instinct I had nurtured for over eighteen years to be there, to protect her, to provide for her, and to see and know every day that she is okay. I fully expect the same emotional wave to wash over me when we drop off our son and bid good-bye in front of the Pancake House just off of campus (his choice – likely so his new crew doesn’t witness his mother losing her shit in a fit full of tears outside of the dorm).
But even as know I will cry, I also smile in celebration, because this is the way it is meant to be.
They are ready.
And so are we.
We had no clue what we were doing half the time, there was no manual, we did a lot of things right, we also did some things remarkably wrong, and still somehow in the process my husband and I raised a family more precious than anything else we have known. Being parents is, and continues to be, the most consequential thing we have done with our lives.
And now here we are - we survived the parenting years and have emerged with our health and sanity. The miracle! We have a shared and crazy passion for running, we have a world to explore, and big dreams and goals still to pursue together and also as individuals. We may have no idea where we’ll sit at the dinner table a month from now, pasta for two may always resemble pasta for four, and we’ll probably give our kids plenty of eye-roll opportunities when we tell them what we’re up to next. But that’s more than okay. Because just as it was in our beginning, so it will continue to be, the two of us loving each other and living life’s daily journey together – who can ask for anything more than that?
At the heart of it all is this: In the same way that I know that our children’s worlds are changing and opening up to them in new and incredible ways, so too is ours.
And that is something to celebrate.