Day: January 3, 2013

The End Game of Motherhood

The endgame of motherhood is to make yourself obsolete. This is how you know you’ve succeeded, when they launch into their own lives and no longer need you. It is a hard thing. It is why I find myself crying on a sunny morning in a bright new year feeling sadness because we’ve just concluded the final holiday season when all the kids live at home. Kiki will come home for Christmas next year. I know she will. But it will be different. I don’t know about the year after that. Too many changes loom in the next few years for me to be able to predict what life will look like. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to go back and redo anything I’ve done in the past seventeen years. No major regrets haunt me. I just wish this holiday could have lasted longer, that I could have savored it more, or stored it up for later. If only moments could be preserved like home canned food. I try with blog entries and photo books, but the memory of a moment is not the same as the moment itself. All of the moments for this holiday are gone.

The future is bright and full of possibility. I’m excited to see where Kiki will fly. I’m excited to launch the other kids into their futures too. But I now know–in a way that I did not before–that I will cry. Again and again I will cry. Because it feels like I am departing the heart of my life and I don’t want to. I’m going to miss this. Life will be different and I will find new ways to enjoy it. But just now I can’t imagine it being any better, because this part has been the best bit. I finally understand all those fervent exhortations to “Enjoy them now. They’ll be grown before you know it.” It was usually spoken by some stranger to me when my toddler and baby were climbing precariously in a shopping cart. I thought the advice givers were wrong. They were and they weren’t. For some mothers the best bit is when the kids are little, that is the heart’s home that they miss. I don’t miss the baby and toddler years, though I enjoyed them while I was in them. Right now is what I will miss. I’m going to miss four at home, two teens two kids, all of them running in different directions, squabbling over the cat, and the incessant sound of video games. This is my heart’s home and just now it feels like I will spend the rest of my life missing home.

I have eight months left. No wonder I have no desire to travel anywhere. I just want to be at home while home is still here. There is time afterward to figure out which new dreams will flow into the spaces that are opening up in my life. New happiness will come. Old dreams will become possible again in ways that they aren’t when I have primary care of developing human beings. I will find laughter and adventure. Things will be good, but they will be different and I can’t quite picture how it will be. So today I cry a little. Then I wipe my eyes and proceed with the day. No sense wasting what I have by grieving for what has not even happened yet. Once the kids come home, they hug me and all is well for now.

Halfway Out of the Dark

“I don’t want to put the Christmas tree away.” Kiki said on January first. She wasn’t the only child to express this sentiment. It was not mere chore avoidance, the kids honestly felt wistful and sad about putting away the trappings of the holiday season. I felt the same myself, but we proceeded, because the New Year was already marching on us and we had to become ready for it.

There have been years where Christmas was scoured from the house on Boxing Day, mere hours after the holiday was complete. Other years it was allowed to linger until New Year’s Day only on principle but my fingers were itching to put it away. This year we all left the holiday reluctantly, wishing for another week of setting our own schedules, another week of brightness in the dark. I pulled out the boxes and began putting things away, hoping that the actions would help us all re-set our brains into a non-holiday mode.

“Hey kids,” I said drawing four sets of eyes to focus on me. We were at the dinner table, which I find is a good place to make announcements since they’re all seated in the same room and relatively quiet. “School starts tomorrow, so after you eat I need to to pull out your backpacks and go through them to make sure that you’re ready.” This is the sort of announcement which often triggers a scrambling panic as one child or another remembers that there was this homework assignment they were supposed to do. Instead, four sets of eyes blinked at me as if I were speaking a foreign language. What is this school thing, and how does one prepare for it? They’d packed away their school thoughts so thoroughly that they didn’t even know where to start finding them.

I sympathize. We used to get up how early? 5:30? Really? How did I do that? I rolled out of bed to the blaring alarm and had to carefully remember which steps came next: put on robe, wake Kiki, make breakfast. In October, November, early December these steps were habit. Now the habit feels rusty, as if it belonged to someone else and I’m trying to fill her shoes. I didn’t think the holidays were particularly transformative, but somehow they feel like a watershed, a turning point, instead of a pause. It is as if everything before belonged to a different era. “It’s weird, Mom,” said Kiki “but I kind of feel like I ought to be starting college, not going back to the last semester of high school.” I don’t think it is weird. Or if it is, then I suffer a similar weirdness. I want to move onward because there are things coming which I hope to reach. Yet I don’t want to leave the holiday break because the ground is cold and dark between where I am and those things I want to reach.

“Christmas, halfway out of the dark” proclaims Doctor Who A Christmas Carol. It is a ridiculous show which defies logic and delights me year after year. I think part of the reason it works for me is because of that phrase. It acknowledges that winter is a long dark journey. We celebrate in the middle by stringing up extra lights and singing special songs, but then the lights are put away and I have half of the dark journey left to go. It is the harder part because I am traveling away from the bright holiday season instead of toward it. I’m headed for spring, but it is hard to believe in spring when the world is frozen solid and I have to remember the steps to getting up at 5:30 am.

The decorations are tucked into the closet under the stairs and the tree is stashed away for the year. I am left with a front room which feels bare and in dire need of a new coat of paint. In the next few weeks I intend to supply that paint. It is one of the January projects I will use to give myself focus. Things I can focus on and accomplish in the short term as I step day by day into a time when the sun gets up before I do.

“I think we should have a two-month-long festival of lights.” Howard said while looking out the window at the first grayness of dawn. He did not want to put away the holiday brightness either. But we did. And the kids went to school, landing us on a Thursday which should have first-day-back-to-work enthusiasm. Except Thursday is when I usually begin winding up a work week. It is the day for finishing off and reassigning, not for beginning. So I light a candle despite the daylight which finally showed up outside the windows. Then I begin to feel my way through the day, with many pauses while I try to remember what should come next. Task by task, step by step, slowly traveling out of the dark.