parenting

Touchstones in My Parenting

Mother’s Day is drawing nearer and I’m watching it approach with some trepidation because I’m never quite sure what emotions will hit me on that day. As I was trying to figure out how to feel, I went spelunking for a twitter thread I wrote a few years back that I thought would be a good reminder to put in front of people. (This one) Yet during that dive, I found some things I did not expect, like this post on The Endgame of Motherhood, written by me eight years ago. In that post I was facing my oldest leaving for college and the grief I carried around that life shift. By itself, this post would have been a moment of nostalgia, but the next thing I found was Walking the Spiral, a post written two years later. Those years had been transformational and painful in ways that I hadn’t even imagined when I wrote Endgame of Motherhood. To quote from Walking the Spiral:

2012 was before. It was before all the transitions that our family made stepping all the kids up, one to college, one into high school, one into junior high. It was before my younger daughter had panic attacks. It was before my older son began his long slide into depression. It was before we recovered from that. It was before I discovered that our recovery was a limited one. It was before my younger son also had panic attacks. It was before all the appointments, therapists, doctors, medicine, and meetings. It was before something in me broke, or gave up, or grew too tired. The person who visited the spiral in 2012 could honestly look her depressed son in the eyes and promise him it would get better. The person I was when I returned wondered if that was true. I wondered if I had been lying to him. I knew I had to keep going, taking the right steps, but somehow I’d lost touch with the belief that we could pull out of the emotional mire which kept reclaiming us. We’d seem to be out, but then the troubles would come again. My feet stood at the opening to the spiral. The last time I’d been here was before. I didn’t know why I needed to come again, nor why I wanted to cry at being there. I stepped forward and began to walk…

…Finding and walking the spiral seemed such a silly thing. I still don’t understand how so much meaning got attached to it. Yet in that step out from the open end of the spiral I felt like I’d left some grief behind and took something hope-like with me in its place. The spiral helped me remember that there was a before, and the existence of a before heavily implies that somewhere ahead of me there is an after. I just need to keep wending my way along the path until I get there.

I realized that I have now, eight years after the first post and six years after the second, arrived at the after which I posited must exist if I could just keep moving forward. After took a lot longer to arrive than I would have hoped for, and if anyone had told that me who walked the spiral that she had six years of struggle ahead, it would not have felt like good or hopeful news. And it wouldn’t have been. Even with all I’d been through, the hardest bits were still ahead of that younger me who sought out a spiral without knowing why. Yet here I am, with all four kids still alive and beginning to thrive. And I can see all the ways that progress needed to be slow and steady. The ways that we had try and fail and try again. (and fail again and try again and…) Now I read these words from my eight years ago self who was facing one grief without knowing a multitude was coming for her.

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 would not trade positions with her for anything. Yes that all-the-kids-at-home time is a treasured memory, but now I get to have all-my-kids-are-adults-and-their-lives-aren’t-my-job-anymore. I loved that stage and I love this stage. There were a lot of things between there and here which were heart wrenchingly difficult, but I wouldn’t trade those away either because most of the best things have happened as a direct result of the hardest things. I have a new heart’s home now, and it is a good place. More than that, I can feel that future heart’s homes exist out there for me. This one is good. The next will be too.

Right now my primary task in relation to motherhood is to make peace with myself about all the things I did and did not do, to find kindness in my heart for the choices made in difficult circumstances. I still have mothering work ahead of me, a role to play in the lives of my adult children. Depending on the long-term needs of my young adults, I may never be an empty nester. Also, they are not the only ones I will nurture, I’ve turned some of my (joyously surplus) mothering energy toward helping other creative people grow. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it is far less intensive than what I’ve been through, for which I am glad.

I still don’t know how I’m going to feel on Sunday, but whatever feeling shows up, I’ll give it a space to exist for a time. Then I’ll move onward.

Analyzing Two Weeks of Depression

On Sunday the depression I’ve been under for the past two weeks lifted. Some of that was seeing the results of the Covid tests (negative) but the sense of lightness was more pervasive than that. I’m able to feel that life is good and I no longer feel like the slightest thing will puncture the barrier between me and an ocean of crying. I’m grateful to have depression back off, but I’m also doing some analysis to figure out why it hit me the way that it did and why it lingered for two weeks instead of resolving within a day or two per my usual pattern. Yes I know that I am very fortunate that my usual pattern has short stints with depression instead of dealing with it for months or years at a time. I worked my way out of that place and analyzing the pattern change is part of how I stay out. Also I have the emotional resources to do this analysis now and put preventative measures in place.

Contributing factors and possible countermeasures:

Weather: The days are shorter, the nights are longer, outside is cold, and all of the green has vanished from the outdoors. This happens every year, however I’d been using the green space behind my house as part of my pandemic coping strategy. It simply doesn’t have the same effect with the green gone. Countermeasures: I’ve planted my little hydroponic garden with flower seeds. They should be flourishing and blooming by the end of December. Hopefully that will help. Also I need to get outside and walk despite the lack of green.

Somatic crash post election: Once I realized that I would not have to deal with another four years of the same man being in office, there was a level of tension and emergency response in my body that was finally able to let go. Sometimes tension relief manifests as depression because there is finally time to process. Countermeasures: None needed. This won’t be repeated.

Covid fears: Watching the rising case rates and knowing that Thanksgiving was coming, created a sort of helpless panic. I could only make my own choices, not control anyone elses, but I felt compelled to try to push information out to encourage others to make good choices. Now the holiday is done, the fallout is yet to come, but the choices were made. Waiting is a different kind of stress, but somehow less anxiety inducing for me personally. Anticipating a crisis and contingency planning for all possible outcomes is always worse for me than crisis management. I can deal with what is in front of me, planning for what might one day be in front of me is how I drive myself crazy. Countermeasures: Sing Que Sera Sera a lot. Recognize I can only control my own choices. Practice dealing with what is in front of me and try not to contingency plan so much.

New holiday norms: When my daughter was away at college, part of how I supported her was to reach out and make sure she felt included in holiday preparations and celebrations. I found ways to extend my traditions and patterns to bring her in. This year she is married and has her own household of two. Unconsciously I was trying to do the same holiday-expansion to include both her and my son-in-law into our holiday. However I kept slamming into (necessary) pandemic restrictions that prevented inviting them inside my bubble. I was hugely grieved by my inability to include. Disappointing people is a huge anxiety trigger for me, and I often fail to recognize in the moment that the disappointment I’ve imagined that they are feeling exists only in my imagination. It ties into the extensive contingency planning that is one of my instinctive anxiety responses. Imagine possible disappointment –> make branching contingency plans to avoid that disappointment –> planning reveals additional ways for disappointment to happen –> repeat until I’m curled into a non-functional ball.

Once the holiday was over and the disappointments were aimed at covid restrictions rather than my failures, that alleviated some of the stress. However I could also feel the looming Christmas holiday and felt the beginning of the same contingency/disappointment loop for that holiday as well. But I had a conversation with my daughter talking about some of it. In the wake of that conversation I had an insight: the current situation is fundamentally different from when she was in college. I said it right up there at the beginning of the prior paragraph. She has formed a new household. I can’t, and shouldn’t, be trying to stretch my household traditions to cover hers as well. They need to be deciding who they are and how they want their own traditions to go, where they want to include us and where they want to be on their own. Some of our preferred methods of connecting will be harder to accomplish this year because of Pandemic, but we’ll figure it out. So in this I am strangely grateful to Pandemic. If it hadn’t enforced boundaries around my attempts to include, it would probably have taken me several more years of anxiety (or a confrontation with my married kids) for me to recognize how and why I needed to back off from assigning the task of “Multi-Household Holiday Coordinator” to myself. Countermeasures: Writing this post to solidify my realizations

Brain chemicals: I’m 47. Over the past several years I’ve noticed wider emotional fluctuations that hit me every month or three. I’ve also had more trouble with migraines and vivid dreaming. Since these were all things that plagued me during puberty, it makes sense to me that they would also be part of peri-menopause. Howard is helping me keep an eye on it and I have a doctor I can discuss things with. Honestly that was one of my concerns when the depression did not abate after the usual day or two, that I’d hit some chemical switch that would require medical intervention. However, as listed above, there were quite a few contributing factors of which brain chemicals were only a part. Countermeasures: Good diet, exercise, and sleep habits. Consult with doctor as needed.

Additional proactive steps: Find small personal projects to do which bring me joy and which I can share on social media to fuel a sense of connection with others while we all have to be isolated. Continue throwing the breadcrumbs forward through the dark winter, even when I don’t need them desperately. That way if a depressive moment hits, I’ll have a good breadcrumb habit to keep me moving. Make time for career-related projects that will move me closer to my goals. Continue to make efforts to connect and build community.

In hindsight the depressive period makes sense, and I think I have a good shot at not having it hit me again in December. At least not in the same way. That is good. For today, I need to wait on grocery delivery so I can do weekly resource management. Onward I go.

Choices and Statistics

It was an anti-drunk driving billboard and I drove past it regularly while taking my kids to and from lessons. “Don’t become a statistic!” it proclaimed. Seeing the message always tugged at my brain because the writer either didn’t understand (or chose to ignore) how statistics actually work. In the analysis of “people killed or hurt by drunk driving” we’re all already part of those statistics. Most of us are in the “not directly injured by drunk driving” column. What we don’t want is to move into the other column. We don’t want to be on the painful side of the statistic.

Last week my son and I signed papers for him to drop out of his senior year of high school and do a GED instead. For many reasons this makes sense for him. The most obvious being the straight up math of spending 4-6 hours per day each weekday for eight months to earn the diploma, vs spending 1-2 hours per day for a month or so to pass the GED. Both the diploma and the GED allow him to move forward in his life. This choice gets him to the “moving forward” part much more quickly. Yet there is loss in this choice. There are gifts and lessons in classes with teachers which he has to give up. He no longer has a school librarian to connect with. He is no longer connected to a system of teachers and administrators whose jobs are about helping him grow. Also “moving forward” is murky for us while pandemic makes getting a job or going to college high-risk activities.

My son has moved columns in school statistics. He’s now tallied up with those who drop out rather than those who graduate. I feel like his decision to do so was a direct result of the pandemic disruptions yanking him out of the classrooms last spring. That experience and this summer of quarantining changed him and drove his current choice. (Which, again, is the right one for him. I fully support it.) As a society we’re still collecting pandemic statistics, but I expect that the drop out rate for the 2020-2021 school year will be much higher than years prior. Some of those drop outs will be like my son who took a conscious claiming-power step in his life. Other drop outs will be kids who got so lost in the cracks that their best avenue for survival was to abandon schooling. Every drop out story is one of choice or survival, often both.

Dropping out of high school or college is most often framed as a failure either of the individual or of the system, yet the realities are always more nuanced that a binary success/failure. I’ve now assisted three of my children drop out of four different schooling situations. Every time the choice was a mix of both failure and success. Every time we tried to be value neutral while doing failure analysis, to say “why didn’t this schooling experience turn out how we expected/hoped?” The answers teach us about what systems work for my kids as individuals, what doesn’t, and what insights they can carry into the next experiment in moving forward. Each time we have emotional work to do in order to not internalize failure into identity. (The specter of parental failure looms large in my mind on some days.) The fact that they opted out of situations that had become bad for them doesn’t impact their value nor is it a predictor of what will happen next.

Failure is a data point. Analysis of collected data points is statistics. Statistics can tell us useful things about systems and large groups of people, but is useless in describing an individual choice. Yet accumulations of choices are what statistics are made of. And sometimes it takes years before the impact of individual choices is able to be analyzed statistically. The line between pandemic onset and my son dropping out is short and direct. Yet there are elementary age kids and middle school kids whose paths have been nudged toward the dropping out path. There are probably other kids who have been nudged away from that path. We are only just beginning to see the changes that pandemic has wrought. For my family, next week will be about establishing patterns around GED study and long-term everyone at home. In some ways it is simply reverting to the patterns we adopted over the summer, in other ways it is different.

No Longer the Conductor

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram I see pictures and posts from my friends who are parents of young children. They are all scrambling to adapt their families to life in various states of quarantine. I see the photos of crafts and outings. I read about frustration and being overwhelmed. Occasionally I have words of support to offer. I have to admit that along with the sympathy I feel, one of the emotions in my head as I read these posts is jealousy. These families are struggling to contain young ones who want to be busting out into the world. They are building new structures and patterns. In my family the strictures of quarantine are requiring everyone to sit in old, depressive patterns that we were trying to escape from. Last night my 19yo had a bit of a cry saying “It is silly. I’m at home all the time anyway, this shouldn’t feel any different.” But it does, because there is a world of difference between choosing to stay home because of depression and being required to stay home because of mandate. Yes we were already sitting in a pit with depression, but now pandemic has slapped a lid on top of the pit trapping them in the hole with the depression. All of our solutions were aimed at getting them out of the pit, now we have to learn how to conquer mental health while being cooped up with it.

When my kids were younger, this quarantine would have been exactly the sort of challenge that excites me and spurs my creativity. I would have been researching optimal schedules, planning crafts, feeling overwhelmed, feeling guilty for letting them watch too many movies, making them help clean the house. I would have lamented difficulties and found moments of joy. All of which is exactly what I see in my friend’s posts. Through all of that, I would have given myself a structure because “the kids need it.” I tried to do some of that last week. I declared that each day would have a Mom Project in the middle of it. It would be the fixed point in all of our days that would give us structure. They could then plan their other things around it. Day one my attempts caused a meltdown, which wasn’t surprising since any expectation often leads to meltdown around here. The following days went better, but by day four I had a conversation with my 17yo where it became clear that my young adults neither wanted nor needed the structure of a daily Mom Project. I was the one who desperately needed some control lever on our new life patterns. As soon as I realized the Mom Projects were more for me than for the kids, they stopped happening.

I am no longer the creator of my family culture, not in the ways that I used to be. We all create it for each other. We used to be a musical ensemble with me as the conductor. Now we’re a quintet that really needs me to step off to podium and pick up an instrument instead of pretending to be in charge. I miss being the conductor. It was my role for so long and was a comfortable space for me. I got to choose and manage and plan. My current job is much harder. I have far less illusion of control. I care deeply about the happiness of my children and their futures, but I have to step back and let them make choices. Sometimes I can see where the choices they are making don’t lead them in the direction they say they want to go. Then I have to decide whether to allow them to experience natural consequences or whether to place myself as an obstacle trying to redirect their course.

We were just finding a balance for my 17yo attending school, going to therapy, and managing household chores. Then pandemic, and suddenly teachers are emailing me and expecting me to step back into a schoolwork supervisory role that I had carefully and deliberately stepped out of. Every time they email it pokes me right in the hurting guilty place where I’m not at all certain I’m making the best choices for my child, who is almost not a child anymore, and who definitely would like me to back off. Wanting Mom to back off is an important and age appropriate stage of emotional development. He is claiming his own identity and becoming responsible for his own life. It is difficult to try to honor his need for me to back off while being barraged with emails asking me to step in. So strange to have to withstand the barrage and hold space to allow my son to choose to fail so that he can (hopefully, eventually) learn from that failure in ways that motivate him to build a future he wants.

So among the other griefs that pandemic has dished out to me, I’m also managing the ongoing grief of figuring out parenting. I need to acknowledge this. Then I need to spend some time in the rest of today consciously noticing the gifts that being trapped in quarantine is giving my family, and the things I love about my kids being young adults and not small anymore. There are joys here and I need to focus on them.

Changing the Parenting Framework

My youngest child turns 17 this week. I only have one more year of legal responsibility over a human I helped make. Three of my children are legal adults and until a month ago when the oldest got married, they were all living in my house and financially dependent on me. I’ve spent a significant amount of anxious time wondering whether their continuing dependence is just the natural result of their neuroatypicalities creating a non-standard timeline for development, or if I failed at parenting in some fundamental way. This set of thoughts was churned up once again by reading an article about lawn mower parenting and recognizing myself in it.

I want to pause right here and state that I know beating myself up over past decisions is neither emotionally healthy nor useful. Looking back, I honestly made the best decisions I could based on the knowledge I had at the time and the resources/energy that were available to me. Especially considering that I had four kids who fell outside the norm in ways that even school personnel (who are highly attuned to helicopter and lawnmower parenting) recognized as needing extra attention. This post isn’t about regret over failure. It is me analyzing the ways that my anxiety played into my parenting. It is me being fascinated by how parental faults can have a cascade effect on children lasting for years into adulthood. Put more succinctly: we all screw up our children in one way or another because we’re human. Part of the work of young adulthood is learning to form an identity separate from the framework our parents made and, in stepping out of that framework, to grow in the directions that the framework previously prevented. I want to see clearly how the structures I built both enabled and inhibited growth because many of those structures now need to be dismantled for my children to step free into independent adulthood.

A couple of weeks ago I had a confrontation with my 17yo. Confrontation does not quite feel the right word, because it was more a venting of pent up emotions rather than an argument. We were all upset, but no one was angry. In the after discussions, it became clear to me that I have some habits to change. I have to stop protecting him from my emotions, putting how I feel on hold because there is a crisis to manage. He is old enough to know I must be feeling something, and absent emotional information from me, his anxiety fills in disappointment and anger. I also have to stop speaking for him, labeling his emotions, and positing reasons for why his anxiety is acting the way that it is. We’ve reached the point where me explaining his reactions is far less useful than him struggling with his reactions and figuring them out for himself. All of these behaviors from me were healthily adaptive for the challenges we faced when this kid was younger and less self-aware. Now they are scaffolding that needs to be removed so he can develop strength to stand on his own.

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve run across a quote that feels very pertinent:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou

I love the self forgiveness that is inherent in this quote. None of us are perfect. Even at this moment when I’m consciously trying to adapt my parenting to the new set of needs, I’m probably causing some new problem which I’ll be able to see clearly in the future. That’s okay. Once I see clearly, I can do better. For now, I’ll do the best I can.

Changing the Words

“I need to point out a language change I’d like you to make.” he said.
I was sitting across from my son’s new therapist. I’d spent the past forty minutes describing my son’s challenges and our current status.
“When you talk about your son’s schooling, you keep saying ‘we’ and ‘our,’ I want you to use ‘you’ and ‘your’ instead. Put the responsibility for his schooling onto him instead of both of you.”

The moment the therapist said it, I could see how such a small-seeming language shift could matter. Every time I said “we need to get that essay done.” I was shouldering part of the burden of the essay, and it is really easy for kids to just let mom carry things for them. They’ve been doing it since they were small for everything from coats, to toys, to expenses.

Since that appointment, I’ve been working to make the shift, and the effort has shown me how often I included myself into my kids’ struggles instead of letting my them own those struggles. I think I began it because I didn’t want them to feel alone against hard things. I also wanted to frame the struggle as “us against the mental health issues” instead of mom vs kid. It is also probable that I was including myself in an un-self-aware attempt to have more control over the situation. I feel pretty sheepish about that last bit, because I’ve been saying for years that I needed my kids to have some life-solutions that didn’t involve me, while I was simultaneously auto-including myself into their every struggle.

I’m only a few weeks into making this language shift and it is still hard because habit is strong. Yet I’m already feeling the differences in how I think about my kids and their challenges. I’m realizing that every time I help my fledgling adults, what I’m actually doing is slowing down their learning process by absorbing some of the blow of natural consequences. Usually I’m helping to appease my own anxiety, so that the terrible stories of possible outcomes don’t come to pass, or so that I don’t have to watch them struggle. It is hard to be able to help and to let someone else struggle anyway. Yet that is exactly what my kids need me to do for their long term good. Helping makes today better, but it prevents the development of resilience that will let them survive their futures.

There is a part of my mind that wants to dwell on the What Ifs around this language shift. What if I’d learned this five years ago? Was I wrong to do so much helping when they were struggling so hard? Can I do it now only because we’re far enough removed from suicide risk? Did my use of inclusive language in their early teens literally save their lives, or is it the reason we’re here with adults who can’t fly on their own yet? I can’t answer any of those questions and dwelling on them doesn’t really help anyone. We are where we are, and the best way forward is to accept where we are and focus on moving forward from here.

And for right now, moving forward requires me to learn how to change the words I use on a daily basis.

Choices and Helping

A while back I listed some blog posts I wanted to write, including one about what I was learning helping neuro-atypical adults adapt to college. At the time I had two college freshman. Within a couple of weeks I’ll have zero. Both of my young adults have decided that the best decision for right now is to step back from college and take care of other things first. The thing I’m working to learn is that the more I help, the more their life learning slows down. I have to let them do the hard bits by themselves so they can discover how strong they are. So I don’t think writing up that list about helping is useful to anyone really. I’m actually feeling pretty good about their choices. I can see they’re choosing right for them for right now. I get to focus on my choices and the places where I need to be stretching, trying, and failing.

Blooming

My garden of spring bulbs is exceptionally beautiful this year.

I keep wandering outside to just walk along the bed and admire them. The thing is, I haven’t planted any bulbs for years. Common gardening practice is to plant bulbs in the fall, tear them out in the spring, plant annuals for the summer, then tear them out in the fall to plant bulbs for next spring. The reasoning behind this is that tulip bulbs don’t thrive year to year. If you leave them in the ground you get a giant tulip the first year, a smaller one the following year, and by the third year you may not get a tulip at all, just leaves.

Yet here in my garden, my tulips are multiplying. In this spot I planted three bulbs several years ago.

The truth is, I don’t have the patience to rip everything out twice per year. I need my plants to thrive with only sporadic attention from me. I also know that I’m far more likely to give that attention in the spring when I’m craving flowers and green things after the winter, rather than in fall when I’ve spent all summer feeling guilty about the gardening I meant to do, but didn’t. So in the spring, I buy granulated bulb food. I scatter it across the garden beds when the bulbs first begin coming up, which encourages them to grow large. Then I scatter it again as the blooms are fading so that the bulbs have extra nutrition as they’re stocking away energy for the next year. The only other thing I do with regularity is make sure the bulbs get water in the spring even before the sprinkler system is turned on.

I’ve been following this process for about three years now, and all my spring bulbs are thriving. But it took a while for that to happen. This is the thing about bulbs, you hide them in the ground months before you see anything that looks like growth. Then they bloom and are gone. But if I feed them, they hide away for an entire year to re-emerge again.

This spring my children are also blooming. It has been a long series of seasons full of dormancy, hiding, and darkness. Yet this year, all of the quiet tending and feeding has given them the resources they need to roll out green leaves and even a few tentative blooms. I know that the future may hold more struggles, but the growth they are doing now gives them strength to grow even more.

To be a gardener is to feed, weed, and tend with no guarantee that the plant will thrive. I can work to create optimal conditions for my plants, but it is their own internal process that drive the growth. Parenting teens and young adults is much the same. I’ve done a lot of throwing nutrients around and then waiting. Waiting can be hard and discouraging, but in spring I am reminded that many things grow again after looking dead for a season or two.

Of Nails and Helping

There is a video called It’s Not About the Nail where a man and a woman are having a conversation. She is struggling with some things, he thinks he can solve them by removing a nail, she get’s mad at him for trying to “fix it.” That is a very rough summary and you should really just click the link and watch the video. It is only a minute and a half long and the rest of this post will make more sense if you’ve seen the video.

The thing is, I’ve been on both sides of that conversation. I’ve been the one with a problem who really wants to be heard and sympathized with. Once I have that sympathy, I’m able to step back and decide to pull my own nail. However, until I decide to pull the nail, I resent people suggesting I should. The woman is not being ridiculous or strange. She honestly needs to be heard and understood. That need is every bit as real as the nail.

This week I spent a lot of time on the man’s side of the conversation. It is a very frustrating position to be in, to watch a loved one overlook or dismiss simple solutions which could make their life measurably better, while building a host of coping strategies around keeping the nail in place. So I’m waiting and making sympathetic noises and making sure that my loved one has the tools so that once they decide to pull the nail it can be done quickly. Also, having nail-pulling tools laying around helps plant the seed that maybe the nail is a problem that can be solved.

My heart is tired from this week. And I’m having to remind myself that after a period of calm growth, it makes sense to have some struggle. This week’s struggle doesn’t negate the growth and possibly helps lay groundwork for new growth.

Tiny Launches

At times I have lamented missed milestones that I see my kids peers hit when my kids didn’t. It is hard not to feel the difference at those moments, particularly when social media gives me photographs. I remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy and work to find my own joy. I also must pause to recognize and rejoice in smaller milestones, often so small they aren’t really recognizable as such. Like this morning when my three living-at-home kids were all up for breakfast then they all traipsed out the front door laughing and chattering so my oldest could drop the other two at high school and head for a cafe to work.

My house is empty of children because they’ve all launched into their days happily. My house is almost never empty of children, not since they started melting down six years ago. I’ve always had one or another here at the house, sometimes content, often depressed or suffering. It hurt my heart to see them making themselves small and hiding in my safe place because they were scared or wounded. But today they went out the door happily.

They’ll return home in only a few hours, but the tiny launches and small flights are practice for much larger launches to come. I have to catch and remember these tiny milestones because between now and the larger launches will be more hiding days, more moments when I struggle to not compare. So today I catch a mental image of them going out the door chattering. Today they are happy and that is enough.