It has finally happened. Aside from attending late-season baseball games of my boys’, I barely see them on the weekend. They are there, little blurs of long-limbed things asking for money, and then they are gone, shouting from afar that they will call me later.
They will call me later. They will see me later. They are running around with friends, finding basketball courts and places to throw the ball. They are grabbing a slice or a crepe or a bahn mi sandwich, going to the movies, playing video games somewhere else. And there I am. Here I am.
I smile at babies again and try to get them to smile back. I ask toddlers their names, and tell them how cute their outfits are. To my 11-year-old, this is weird behavior.
“You’re kinda creepy, mom, the way you are with kids,” he says.
The thing is, I always wanted kids. I always loved to babysit. Not that I found having babies easy or always enjoyable. It is hard work, but, man, are they amazing.
Time flies. People tell you that, but it is hard to believe. You can’t imagine that that tiny thing you bring home swaddled in blankets will be playing his last Little League game (which you miss for a clothing exchange, not realizing it is his last.) You can’t possibly believe that the needy little sucker will someday roll his eyes at you and ask you “Why?” when you ask when he will be home.
Friends from high school are posting pictures of their babies graduating high school on Facebook.
“OMG, No!” I wrote to one of my best friends whose daughter stands next to her in a photo in a cap and gown, a spitting image of her at 17. “That was just us!”
My own son is graduating middle school. I remember it like it was yesterday, the eighth-grade graduation dance where the boys donned parachute pants, the girls channeled “Flashdance” or Madonna, and we danced to ZZ Top.
The transition from full-time parenting to some quasi part-time parenting — where you have to be around in case they need you, but ideally they don’t need you — is a weird one. You are not quite able to take off, but not busy with the usual tasks that have taken up so much of your time for the last 14 years.
I’m trying not to panic.
I’m trying hard to breathe.
I can’t believe it. Really?
They’re just about to leave?
I write poems when I’m feeling helpless, so there’s the one for now. My babies are going to leave me soon! It is good, we all say to each other. We can go out now, do things. We don’t have to worry about babysitters. In the city in particular, tweens and teens are highly self-sufficient. But…
There is a big but. I had kids ’cause I wanted them. There are only so many restaurants I care to try or movies I want to see. There are only so many plays or dance productions that sound interesting. And while freedom sounded fabulous when I was tied to the house trying desperately to figure what it might take to get one or the other of my baby boys to sleep, now it just seems … hard to figure.
Maybe I should take up watching television again, or learn the patience to knit. Maybe another dog would do the trick, or a cat, though from what I hear, they are pretty independent. I’m sure I’ll figure the way to fill my time again. And I’ll nostalgically look back at all the time I had with them under my wing, helping them to learn how to fly by themselves, away from me.
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