When I Grow Up

Life, Changing

IMG_20150928_110954My daughter moved out. She didn’t go off to college, or camp, she moved out. I know that life is full of changes and as we age, they seem to be more frequent. This is a big one.

It is time, I know. She is an adult, with a college degree, a good job, her own car and a savings account. Our house, even after the remodel, is cramped with 6 people and 2 dogs (especially since 5 of said people are “technically” adults). This changes things a lot. It changes the demographics of our household, and even (insert melodramatic music here) the demographics of our town. This was made more real when she came back with her lease and forms to change her local tax and voter registration status.

Like most of us, she has accumulated a lot of stuff. Having a suite-style dorm situation in college, she is pretty well set in the kitchen department (most of which inhabited a bit of real estate in our basement over the past few years). Then there’s the clothes, trinkets, games, memorabilia that build up over time. The stuff, that I am ready to see go. My daughter, not so much.

She is my first born, the first one to go away to college, and then spend a year abroad. That was possibly the most difficult thing I have done in my life – let her go work as an au pair for a year in Germany. Then I had to tell her to stay there when she called, homesick, after spending Christmas actually sick with a “strange” family across the ocean.  That year, I had to spend Thanksgiving, then Christmas, her birthday, Easter, without her. Another family had that privilege (side note, they are not really that strange, she has remained close with them and are still in touch).This time is will be easier. At least for now, I will still get those holidays. Plus, she will only be 8 miles away, in the same time zone, a short car or train ride away.

Life changing, yes. Life shattering, no. This will be an adventure for her. It is a nice apartment, with plenty of room for her and a small yard to share. She can have pets if she wants to (I expect it won’t take long for something furry to appear in that space) and will get to make her own house rules. Unpacking her boxes will be fun, since she has not seen some of those things for a couple years. Picking out furniture and decorating will also be fun for her. Moving is exciting. It is a chance to start fresh, an empty canvas, an avenue to discover or reinvent yourself.

Back to me. Another change. In the past 8 years, our household has been shifting. With kids going to and coming home from college we have gone from having 6 living here to 5, to 6, to 5 to 4 to 5 to 6. The dynamics have changed every time the household size changed again. Now things really change, though. Demographically, we will be a 5-person household. Up until now, her other “homes” have been temporary; our house has been the “permanent” residence. Now, she will refer to going to her apartment from our house as “going home.”  

We were the first of our friends to start a family. For this reason, we are at a different life stage than most of them. We are charting new territory. It is easy to think about how you will act/react to future events. The reality is often very different. Stages of parenting, like stages of childhood are both tedious and fleeting. What parent has not wished for their child to be older, then looked back wistfully on that “blissful” time. We do know some people whose children have left home. In fact, a good friend had one daughter marry and the other move to another state within a month of each other this summer. This is normal, the “circle of life.” However, it is still strange.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not want my children to live with me forever. In some ways, I look forward to the “empty nest.” I want my everyday parenting to come to an end, to change my role to more of an advisory one (though I am not in a rush to see this happen). I will still worry and feel their pain when things go wrong (as they inevitably will), but they will be the ones making the decisions about where life takes them, what paths to take. As they take on new adventures, I hope to have my own. Sometimes we will journey together, other times we will share our stories and photographs.

This change is a good thing. It means we have done our job. She is capable of tending to her own needs. She can cook and clean up after herself, manage her own money, and is well-respected at her job. She is a grown-up. Having her own space will give her the room to grow further. Fortunately, she is staying in the area – only 8 miles away. She likes my cooking, so I think she will stop in every so often for dinner.