Back to School Blues
Lately, I am immersed in the music of my teen years. To be specific: Stevie Nicks. Back then, I had no idea what her lyrics really meant when she was pouring her heart out in “Landslide” and “After the Glitter Fades,” but I get it now. I can only guess, but I’m pretty sure Stevie was roughly my age at that time, watching her babies grow into young adults, the push and pull of hold on, let go, and having to reflect upon the proverbial question that most women our age ask: ‘Who am I when these children leave?’ Midlife crisis? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as a grief process. I’ll expand later.
And so I find myself standing in a turbulent ocean that tumbles me about, casting me onto the sand, coughing, begging for breath as I watch my son drive himself off to high school and a daughter entering her final year at the K-8 school I so love. They are growing up. Out. Away. We’ve done our job correctly. They are independent, bright, self-motivated, strong-willed.
My husband and I have a couple in our lives who have modeled family life, parenting, and a strong, loving marriage. We’ve known them nearly the entire 23 years of our marriage and have watched all three of their children grow up, marry, and make families of their own. I remember a day when the wife said to me on a late summer day when I had young school-aged children who perpetually ran me ragged, “I’m so sad when my kids go back to school. I miss ’em so much. Don’t you?”
I’m nothing if not perfectly honest. I blinked a couple of times, admiring her 16-year-old’s arm draped across her shoulder; the warm look of love they exchanged. It was something straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. I considered lying, but that’s not my thing. So, I took a big breath and said, “No, I’m counting the days.”
I know those of you who have young children are not judging me. You are laughing out loud, and thinking, “Oh, thank God!” Let’s face it, young children are wonderful, but if you are home full-time, it’s EX-HAUS-TING! And if you work, well, foggetaboutit! Double exhausting! But, I tell you, there was this significant shift that happened last year where the discipline lessened and the talking/sharing/disclosure deepened, and suddenly I realized, wow…I, um…kind of don’t want you to leave. Ever. Yikes!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to follow my children to college (maybe), but there is this profound sense of loss that I have this year watching my children return to school. They are indeed my friends now. I like them (okay, to be fair 98% of the time.)
In the grief process, we say that the pining is eventually followed by resolution wherein one’s life accommodates the emptiness and there’s a shift in one’s lifestyle. One day, the bereaved wakes up with a sense of, “Hey…I’m adapting.” I’ll adapt. I mean, come on, my book’s coming out next week, I’m working on hard copies coming out in the fall, I need to do endless self-promotion on the internet and in bookstores all over El Dorado, Sacramento, and Santa Cruz Counties, and focus on my health, spiritual well-being, friendships, and marriage. My life will be full. Packed, actually!
But you know how it is…you’ll be really immersed in a project, or writing a line in your book, or picking up a piece of laundry, and your breath will catch in your throat…and you’ll think, I wonder what he’s doing? I wonder what she’s doing? Is it 3:00 yet? I better get a snack ready.
“…but time makes you bolder, and children get older, and I’m getting older, too…” ~ Stevie