Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Ninth Inning Of Parenting

I’ve been a mother now for more years than I’ve not been a mother. While I don’t consider myself old yet (and still feel about 25 on the inside), I know that the time in which my kids will need my hands-on mothering is quickly drawing to a close. Back when I was 20 and my oldest daughter was a newborn, I was a bright-eyed rookie marveling at this new role of mother. I recall saying “my daughter” and having it sound so fantastically novel. Ten years later, hearing myself utter the words “my son” also sounded peculiar to me after 10 years of mothering two girls, but I was still so eager to learn all I could, firmly implanted in the batter’s box.

This month, that baby boy will graduate from middle school and head off to high school, and I am feeling for the first time in 23 years that my mothering is taking a backseat to my life. Even writing that feels bizarre, honestly.

For 23 years, I proudly wore the uniform with capital MOM on the back.
It was my heyday, collecting runs in the form of sweet milestones, homers made up of achievements, and grand slam memories of laughs and love.
Of course, I was also the wife and daughter, writer and editor, friend and dog owner, but my daily schedule revolved around when I had to drop off or pick up kids, take them to a doctor or a practice, or help with homework or make dinner. Of course, my youngest still has the dreaded teen years to get through before heading to college, but it still is a different era for me. Now if I’m not there, each of my kids can handle things themselves.

It’s not that I didn’t know this was coming; yet it still feels surreal. I’ve watched countless movies with the mother wondering who she is after raising a family. I always thought I would not even notice when the time came, because I would be so thrilled to have the long-awaited independence that I hadn’t had since I was practically a kid myself.
It’s true, the freedom alone is amazing. I can barely remember the days when I couldn’t shower, sleep at night, watch my favorite show, or even read a book whenever I wanted. At the time, I thought those long, busy days would never end. But I was so completely enthralled and fascinated by these little people that I gave it my all, and reveled in it — even the mess. And when I was overwhelmed, I cried and confided in friends and wrote out my feelings, and then recouped and started all over again. That’s what moms do.

I suppose if I had had a single adult life before marriage and kids, I would not find this feeling so foreign, but I didn’t. I married young, and had my babies young, and I am for the first time finding out what it means to be me, without the uniform.

Of course, I’ll always be a mother and my teenage and adults kids still need me, just as I need them, but this third shift of parenting, this breezy ushering into managing rather than playing is supremely satisfying. It has arrived so swiftly, and so sweetly, it feels like a TV series medley in which they play a heartfelt tune while showing how all the characters have grown. Now it’s time for me to coach and advise, knowing my players won’t always take the advice, and that is absolutely fine. I’ll never retire my number, and I’ll proudly enjoy watching my rookies take their place in the dugout, knowing I’ll be right on the sidelines when they need me.