I pinned the list of meals to our bulletin board. The matching ingredients were stocked in the fridge and the freezer. The list did not matter so much, because I knew that my two oldest children would likely ignore it once I was gone from the house, but requiring them to help me make the list accomplished two things. It forced them to think through the process of feeding themselves for four days while mom was not around to make food appear and it calmed that portion of my brain that worried about leaving them. They were old enough. Kiki was recently turned eighteen and thus a legal adult able to move out on her own. Link was fifteen, plenty capable to take care of himself under the supervision of his adult sister. The younger two children would be elsewhere, under the care of adults who were accustomed to managing kids. So I pinned the list and let go, wondering what my two oldest would discover about themselves and adulthood in my absence.
Kiki wrote me nightly emails with titles like “day one of solitary” in which she reported on how they were managing. By day three their sleep schedules had done the expected shift toward staying up very late and sleeping late. They also spent their time absorbed in separate electronic worlds, playing games and interacting very little. On the third day Kiki called me. “This is hard.” She said. I listened to the ways in which it was hard, none of which were actually dangerous or life threatening. I knew that all of my children were safe, but they were having age appropriate experiences with being away from parents. I found myself doing the opposite of the cliché and urging my kids to invite friends over while I was gone. Because I know my kids and I know their friends. There was greater risk in them feeling isolated and depressed than there was in teenage boys coming over to play video games for half a day. So Link’s friends came over and just having people and noise in the house was comforting to them both.
I returned home on Saturday evening. Both Gleek and Patch had returned home before me, so the house was re-populated even before I arrived. They were playing video games and my arrival was met with them glancing up and saying “Oh, hi Mom” then returning to the games. Kiki did put hers down long enough to give me a hug. I stood in the kitchen surveying the backs of their heads, feeling both glad that my absence had not been traumatic and a little under appreciated. It meant I’d done my job well. They were far more ready for their separate adventures than they’d anticipated.
I’ve reached the part of parenting where my job is not to hold tight and keep safe, but to slowly release. We still have at least eight years before they’re all launched, but the process has begun. And they are ready for it, because I can step out of their lives for a few days and they manage just fine.