All Wrapped Up

Clare in DC                I’ve learned a lot about being a parent in the almost 17 years I’ve been one.

I’ve learned to fill a cup only half full for anyone under the age of six because they’re most likely going to spill it.  And not to let anyone of same said age eat or drink in my living room.

I’ve learned about a dozen different ways to deal with temper tantrums – toddlers to teenagers – and none of them are the same for every instance.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away.

I’ve learned that there is no limit to the extremes of emotions that you can experience as a parent.  One minute I can find myself screaming like a little old Nonna and flipping them off after they’ve left the room, and the next minute I’m fighting back tears because someone just washed the dishes without being asked.

And there’s no way to prepare yourself for dealing with these massive swings of emotions.  It’s not a roller coaster.  At least with a roller coaster you can see the  hill coming and you know at some point there’s going to be a drop on the other side.  This is more like getting sucker punched by your best friend in the middle of yoga class.

What the HELL just HAPPENED?!

I took Oldest Daughter on a college tour a couple weeks ago.  It was a gorgeous campus, and I enjoyed the time we spent together, just the two of us for most of the day.  As I drove home, she fell asleep;  taller than me, head tilting to one side, hair tumbling forward.

I suddenly was struck by an overwhelming desire to cry.  I had to grip the steering wheel extra hard, as if that would keep the tears from pouring out of my eyes.

I was so wrapped up in my emotions that I was having trouble concentrating on the drive home.  I almost missed a couple of turns.  I looked over at her, she’s taking up the whole front seat, yet I see the little preschool kid with the two blond ponytails and the princess sandals, running to the ice cream truck.

I was sniffling like crazy by this time, and I was really glad I was wearing sunglasses.  If she had woken up, I was going to blame it on my allergies.

What in the world brought this on? I wonder.  She’s not even going to apply to this college we just saw (she determined after the tour that it just wasn’t the right fit) and I am silently about to lose it while driving on these back roads Siri is sending me.

And then somewhere in the back of my mind, a tiny voice popped up.

“This is what those parents were telling you about; the parents of the kids who just graduated this year… remember?  They said it was going to be a year filled with the sentence  ‘this is the last ____ before graduation.’ ”

One year from now, the mystery will be over. She will have graduated, and she will know where she is going to college.  We will probably be out shopping for dorm room stuff.

This is the last summer of not knowing where she will go.

Up until this point, I’d always had the certainty of the uncertainty, if that makes any sense.  There were no decisions to be made or answers presented, so the uncertainty of the future has given me the illusion that I have more time.  More time for day trips, shopping trips, more time for family dinners together, time to just be together.

I didn’t need to think about it, to feel it, because it wasn’t real yet.

I’ve held onto this blanket of uncertainty, and it’s about to vanish.  And it’s kinda freaking me out.

I get so mired in the day-to-day-to-day-to-day stuff, and my mom brain is like a hamster wheel that barely stops when I sleep.  The days are so busy, and the years are flying by, and I’m barely aware of it.  I don’t see the Big Picture.  But sometimes I don’t want to see the Big Picture.

The effect is oddly like I’ve been sucked into a wormhole– time doesn’t even appear to be linear.

That’s probably part of the reason I can’t quite seem to keep my emotions in check.  What do you mean, we moved into this house almost 12 years ago?  And did our pet rabbit really die before Youngest Son was born?  How can that be??

So when Oldest Daughter asks if she and her boyfriend can take the train into the city to see a ballgame, I’m left wondering why she’s not asking me to drive her to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

When she finds healthy recipes like Parmesan Quinoa Cakes and cooks them for us for dinner, I’m left wondering when exactly it was that she stopped eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I think I could read every parenting book on the planet and talk to the parents of every high school graduate in the next three towns, and it wouldn’t even come close to preparing me for dealing with all these emotions.

I feel like I’m presenting my kid as a gift to this Great Big World next year.  The best thing I’ve ever made, and I’m giving her away.  All her compassion, grace, devotion, and determination, all wrapped up in this beautiful teenager.  How do I deal with that?!

I’m incredibly proud of her.  I want to believe she carries the best parts of us with her, along with her own uniqueness she’s developed along the way. I want to show her off:  Look at her!  How amazing she is!

But I’m incredibly selfish in the very next breath.  I want to keep her for myself.  No one else could possibly appreciate her or love her or take care of her as much as I do!

Is there anything in the middle?  Maybe.  But I’m having trouble locating it and feeling it.

This is real now. And I have to deal with it.  I’ll try to save the really ugly cries for my own house.  And I’ll invest in some really good waterproof mascara.  And I’ll probably be wearing sunglasses a lot this year. You’ll know why.

Here she is, World.

Watch out.

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