The first day of school, captured from afar.
“Are you sure I can’t come?” I asked, “I know the other moms are coming…”
My daughter simply shook her head, “No, Mom,” she said, “You don’t need to be there.”
It was the first day of school and I’d been shunned from the bus stop.
Of course my almost 13-year-old is old enough to get herself there; I’d just wanted to capture the moment with a photo. After all, my days of having anyone at a bus stop are numbered. But she wanted no part of my sentimentality.
Change is hard. Lately, I find I’ve been resisting it.
Just before school started, I ran into an old friend at the grocery store. Right there between the tomatoes and green peppers, we took a minute to catch up. My friend is younger, her children still in elementary school. We talked about how the summer was going.
My friend was knee deep in summer camp, swimming lessons and taking her kids to the summer concerts in the park. This summer they’d been to Kings Island, a water park and had spent a weekend camping.
“How about you?” she asked.
Um, not my summer.
No swimming lessons.
No summer camp.
And for the first time, not one summer concert in the park.
At first I felt guilty. What kind of mother am I? Why hadn’t we done any thing fun and summer-y?
After we said our goodbyes and I had moved on to the freezer section, I quickly took an inventory of what we’d done with our summer.
I worked, a lot.
We took a family vacation (great fun!).
My 21-year-old worked and spent time with her friends each weekend.
My 18-year-old worked and spent time with her friends each weekend.
My youngest swam, spent time with her grandparents, played with friends, and honed her Minecraft skills.
What’s happening to my once close-knit family? Why haven’t we done much together?
In a nutshell, my family dynamic is changing.
For years we did go to the summer concerts in the park. We had picnics and pool days and swimming lessons and summer camp. We typically hit the water park, an amusement park and spent at least one weekend at my parents’ lake house.
But my girls are not really ‘girls’ anymore. Two out of three are legal adults. They are busy with friends and work and doing what young adults do. The youngest isn’t far behind. Her desire to hang out with me is waning, instead she’s all about being with her friends. Movies and water balloon fights and shopping are first on her radar.
While do we still manage to have our moments of family fun together, the truth is, we don’t do as much together as we used to. This is what I’ve been resisting. I’ve finally realized I’ve spent that last few summers trying to do the things we’ve always done, to be the way we’ve always been. It’s a futile effort.
My family is not the family it once was. Times have changed, the kids have grown, and our family patterns have shifted along with these changes. I must face the truth:
I am no longer a mother of young children.
I am no longer in charge of my children’s social activities.
Gone are the days of family outings to the fair, the pool, the movies.
But replacing those days are moments.
Moments when everyone just happens to be home and we share a dinner filled with laughter.
Moments when my one of my three is around and somehow we end up having a really good, deep conversation-on the fly.
Moments when my husband and I discover all three girls are gone for the evening and we can have a date night.
Moments when I catch my three goofy girls having fun together.
As my girls mature and change, they are developing lives of their own. And when I can accept that I see how wonderful it is. What lovely people they are becoming. What cool experiences they are having. How fun to to watch each girl spread her wings and create a beautiful life of her own. And how nice to think that I am just years away from entering a new kind of future with my husband as we empty our nest (bring on the travel!).
Life is full of phases, full of change. It is the natural order of things.
When I can embrace it, instead of fear it, I can see the good. I can be joyful in knowing there are more blessing to come, just in a different form.
My daughters are no longer relying so much on me, they no longer desire to spend all their time with me. Yet as they become more independent, they are becoming the women God intended them to be.
I may be shunned from the bus stop but I am still here, will always be here, ready and willing to join them wherever they are in their journey.