Some birthdays provoke nostalgia. My daughter turned thirteen this week and I can’t help but feel a little wistful. I’ve been remembering the birthday parties we went to when she was 4 or 5 years old. She wouldn’t leave my lap to play musical chairs, but sat there with me, sucking her thumb, watching the festivities. Then there was the Pre-K dance recital that relatives from Ohio flew in to attend, only to have her stay backstage clutching my hand while her classmates did pirouettes on stage.
It’s hard to see why I was so eager then to have her venture off my lap.
Every day now is a new test of freedoms, and the apron strings are stretched just a little bit more. Last week she and her friends wanted to sit far away from me in the movie theater. This week they want to be dropped off at the mall.
My friend Sandy has two kids that are now college age. I often think back to a conversation we had before my kids were born. I’d invited her to a yoga class, and she declined, saying that she’d already been out too many nights that week, and that she’d rather be home with her kids. I appreciated her honesty, but wondered how a couple of hours could possibly make a difference. Now I understand --maybe it's because my job takes me out of the house several nights a week. Lately, as my kids get older and more interested in doing things with their friends outside the house, I especially treasure our evenings at home together, doing the mundane stuff. The cooking, the homework, the “Everybody Hates Chris” episodes -- even the rides to basketball practice. But the real treat is a night when nobody has to GO anywhere. Nothing is more luxurious than staying home and making soup.
I wonder if these feelings will go away when my kids are out of the house. When they’re not here to do it all with – or for. When I'm home, and they’re both out participating in the world, I’m already feeling those empty nest pangs of sadness. There will be time later for fancy cocktail parties, award ceremonies, Broadway plays and yoga classes. My gardening, photography and HTML skills will never be optimal. I can work on all that later – when I won’t feel as bad about not making it to the PTA meetings, either.
Happy Birthday, Miss E. and many happy travels, wherever you roam!
photo by Leah Brand