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Nov 28

Approaching Fifty

I’m not there yet. In fact, I’m not yet 49. But Becky has turned 50, and so, emotionally, I’ve started prepping.

I find myself thinking mortality thoughts. Getting ready to get old. Thinking about long term, my kids living without me. Not in a scary or maudlin sort of way – just in a “huh – I should start pondering this” sort of way. My mind brushes up against it and then away. Because it’s hard to think about for too long or too in-depth. But I’m getting used to thinking about it. Or thinking about thinking about it.

I’m an all the way grown up now. At 50 – that’s full on adult. That’s middle aged. I find that I’m feeling okay about it. Not approaching a mid-life crisis or anything, at least not yet. But taking stock, thinking my thoughts, figuring out what I still want to do. What do I want to change? What made me this way – and what can I still change? How am I preparing my kids for the future?

I haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not even sure how I feel about it yet. Turning 40 scared the hell out of me (and given everything that’s happened in the last ten years – I think that’s totally appropriate). But the idea of turning 50 isn’t terrifying me. I don’t know that I LIKE it, but I don’t hate it. I mean, it’s better than the alternative.

Nov 06

It never really gets easier

I’m sure that at some point, it’ll stop. Right? They’ll all reach adulthood. Full on, total, adult hood. Although as I’m thinking about it, maybe it won’t. Maybe once you have kids, you spend the rest of your life watching them get older and older and growing more and more into themselves. First it’s holding their head up, then sitting, next thing you know they’re asking if they can hang up on you and just enjoy their ice cream while they walk. Alone. In the dark.

I mean, Jessie’s been at college for a year and a half now. And I’ve adapted rather well, I think. Yes, okay, I did sob thru most of her senior year. And okay, yeah, I did cry so hard on drop off day her first year, I had to have Marc pull over so I could throw up. But after that – I was mostly really okay. She’s where she wants to be, doing what she wants to do. Learning and growing and becoming who she is.

I make her call me when she’s walking alone in the dark. Not me, necessarily – but I told her that I want her to be on the phone with SOMEONE. So she calls me, faithfully, whenever she’s walking home alone in the dark. I mean, it was my only rule. She’s 19, almost 20. It’s not up to me to tell her what to do – she makes her own choices and decisions. I respect her so much, and I trust that she’s more than capable of living her own life. But… she’s not allowed to walk alone in the dark.

Tonight, she asked if she could hang up on me, because she wanted to eat her ice cream cone and enjoy her walk. Alone. In the dark.

And… wow. Yeah, I mean, of course. But, damn.

I feel like I’m constantly on the cusp of a million different milestones. All the time. Jessie’s walking by herself, Sam is going to the Ecotarium 2x weekly, and Julianna is friends with people I’ve never met, parents I’ve never met. They’re all growing so fast, and every time I think I’ve caught up, things keep changing.

I still made her call me when she got back to the dorm though. Because even if she’s all the way ready, I’m not.

Aug 27

Like pushing a rock up the hill

I’ve successfully cleaned one room. One.

I still can’t find the remote.

I had such big plans for today. I was going to sweep, I was going to rearrange. I was going to indulge in a trash television marathon of Kardashians. Instead – I finished a book and cleaned one room. I did move Julie’s art stuff into the bedroom, and swept the dining room as well as the living room. I’ve done a good half of the dishes (but still have a sink full of Shabbat pans soaking).

Aug 25

I miss her

When Jessie went to college last year, she was a mess. Just… a mess. She was super homesick and sad, and because of that, I didn’t miss her. I was so focused on making her okay, and she called me, seven, eight, nine times a day. I talked to her when she woke up, when she had coffee, when she walked to class, when she got out, when she went to another class. I talked her all.the.time. It was fantastic.

I didn’t miss her, because it didn’t feel like she left.

And by the time she settled in, by the time she was happy – I was good. We had weaned me off slowly. I was so smug. I handled my baby going off to college just FINE, thank you very much. I was so well adjusted, I told myself. I was happy she was happy. This was how it should be.

But, but… sophomore year is different. Jessie isn’t sad. She isn’t lonely. She’s BUSY. And happy and non-stop doing something all the time. Which is wonderful and I’m so happy. So, so happy. For her. But I miss her so much. I’m used to contact. Frequent texts, calls. Photos even. I crave that. I’m not used to no Jessie.

It’s my problem. Not hers. She’s exactly where I want her, exactly where she needs to be. And I’ll adapt, I’ll be okay. I know that. I just miss having my buddy here with me.

Aug 03

A bag for a man

I just bought Sam a bag for school, and promptly burst into tears.

He’s been using Jessie’s hand-me-down backpack from high school and it’s been fine. I mean, it’s purple and not all that functional for him, but it fit his laptop.

Sam never asks for anything. Ever. Occasionally, he’ll ask for a video game, or a coke. Some skittles on occasion. But he never asks for clothes or shoes. But he asked for a laptop bag that wasn’t a backpack. I found one that’s for an adult man. Which makes sense. But wow. I wasn’t ready for that.

It comes on the same day that Sam took the paratransit round trip to work, the same day I dropped off my application and CORI form to the JCC, and I think it suddenly hit me – he’s going to go out into the world without me. He’s going to be independent and on his own. Marc and I have always talked about the risks with kids – whenever you let them do something independent for the first time, it’s scary and hard. But the risk, if you don’t do it, is that they don’t know how to do it when they’re on their own.

It hits harder when it’s Sam. Especially because he doesn’t push for independence. Sam’s used to not being able to do things. He can’t go to school, he can’t ride a bike, he can’t go to the beach. He can’t, he can’t, he can’t. Everything he does, I push first. And sometimes, it’s successful and sometimes it isn’t. Every set back feels awful and weighted and hard. Things were so hard for him, for so long, and the only thing I could do to make it easier was be with him.

But that’s not a good long-term strategy. I can’t be with him all the time. He was so happy today – because he arranged for his own transport, chatted away with his boss and co-workers, took the ride back. He’s thriving. He loves this. I’m pushing – in that I’m sugggesting. But he’s ready for this – he’s so calm and poised and confident. And he needs a bag where he can fit a water bottle, maybe lunch. His phone, his laptop, paperwork, etc.

It’s not that I missed out on time with Sam. I didn’t, I was there for all of it. But we missed the middle years. Collectively. He and I, and Marc – his middle childhood was so different because he wasn’t at school. He wasn’t experiencing things with his peers. He went from a little boy bag to a man bag, and tonight, it just hit me a little harder than I was expecting.

Jul 20

Pondering

I find myself thinking, more and more, about what comes next. What comes AFTER I’m done raising kids? I’m not there yet, but I know it’s coming and it has the potential to really, really throw me. When I went from not having kids to having kids – it was an easy transition. It just was. I had been learning how to be a mother from the time I was a toddler. I was the best big sister, favorite babysitter, aunt extraordinaire. Becoming a mother felt like the culmination of everything. This was what I was meant to be, the zenith of what I had been aiming towards my entire life.

But what happens when that’s not the center of my life? I’ll always be the mother, but being a mother of adults can’t be my identity. It does raise the question of whether it was wise to make it my whole identity while they were young, but I still think that was the right decision. For me, for them, for Marc. This worked – I loved being a stay at home mom. I think Marc loves the way I mother his kids. And I think my kids are extraordinary. They’re brilliant and kind and empathetic and snarky and wise. They are crap at doing dishes, but nobody’s perfect.

What’s left, after raising kids? Who am I, outside of being Mama? Is there a career in my future? I could go back to work, but it’s hard right now to think of anything coming before Sam vomiting or Julie needing me at home. Or Jessie having a crisis. I need to be available. But do I? That’s the heart of it – at what point does my life become more or at least as equally important than their needs? I’ve spent so long putting them front and center. Julie’s only 12 and Sam is only 16, so this is mostly an intellectual discussion, but at some point, within the next ten years and probably sooner – I’m going to have to figure out what fills that space that’s left behind when they don’t need me as much anymore.

Jun 16

End of Elementary School

Julie graduates sixth grade tomorrow.

There are a couple of different ideas working around in my brain right now. The first is that she’s done with elementary school. It’s a significant milestone. Elementary school is different from middle school and light years away from high school. That ability to step in, to email her teacher, to fix whatever is going wrong in her life – it’s not mine any more. There’s a gradual transfer of control and moving out of elementary school kick starts that into high gear.

Julie’s childhood is bifurcated by both the accident and by covid. The accident changed her, and covid changed her again. I think I’ll forever feel guilty about the accident, about it’s impact on her, and while I know I did my best to minimize the trauma, there was so much. It was just so hard, on everyone, and for my little five year old baby girl, the repercussions seem to go on and on. And then covid – it threw everything for a loop. She lost everything, all at once, and had to rebuild.

I love the way she’s created her life. I love her humor and her empathy. I love the way she instinctively cares for everyone in her world. I love watching her come into herself, owning who she is and how she wants to exist in the world. I find her endlessly fascinating, and I love hearing about her day, about her choices and her challenges.

Another huge thing that I’m achingly aware of is that I’m done with elementary school. I don’t even know how I feel about that. Am I happy? Relieved? Wistful? I’ve had a child in elementary school for the past 13 years. I’ve done book fairs, school dances, library duty, lunch duty, recess. And now suddenly, that’s over.

Although all three of my kids have had/are having such different experiences. It’s not just that they all attended different schools, they’re all such different personalities and approach things in such a distinct way. Maybe it’s wrong to assume that I have any idea what middle school for Julie will be like. Her elementary school experience was completely different from Sam’s, and from Jessie’s.

May 26

When there are no words

I’m feeling this sense of disgust and rapidly moving into apathy. My kids aren’t traumatized by the school shooting, because it’s normal for them. And I can’t figure out if that’s healthy or not. Because would I rather them be terrified? Or accepting? These are kids who grew up knowing that people don’t care if they get sick, they won’t wear a mask or get vaccinated to keep them safe, they don’t trust society, and why would they? We wonder why anxiety and depression numbers are so high, but of course they are.

I wonder, simply as a thought exercise, what this generation of kids is going to know about human beings. What America is going to mean to them. If I’m feeling disillusioned and enraged and disgusted, and I grew up feeling patriotic and safe, will they feel… anything? How do you connect with a country where this happens? How do you go through the past few years of telling them that they need to be afraid of getting sick, nobody is being careful except for us, and we can’t trust anyone to not be sick, and then expect them to feel like they’re a part of a greater society? How do you get used to the idea that you might be gunned down in the middle of science class and nobody really cares? At least not enough, not enough to change anything. God forbid we lose the right to bear arms.

I’m without words at this point. I’m trying so hard to raise healthy kids, ones who aren’t riddled with depression and anxiety, and I’m all alone in this. The greater society – my village, if you will – doesn’t care about my kids. They won’t keep them safe, and they won’t sacrifice to make it better for them. My kids, all kids, are on their own. And they know that. That’s why Julie is very matter of fact about the school shooting in Texas. “Why would I be worried, Mom? These things happen all the time, they’ve been happening my whole life.” She’s not wrong – and given that she’s already such a bundle of anxiety and stress, the last thing I want to do is add to it. Maybe it’s the same as getting in a car – we know we could be in a terrible accident, but most of the time, we’re fine. We go places in the car all the time. Going to school is mostly the same thing for them.

Maybe all this angst around school shootings is for us – for them, this is normal. This is life in America in 2022. We, as parents, are terrified and upset and raging, but nobody actually does anything. The laws haven’t changed, we don’t do anything, and eventually, it’ll settle back down, and we’ll forget. We won’t always have it front and center in our minds. But for our kids? This is just another day.

And I really don’t know if that isn’t better than feeling disgusted and enraged. Because nothing is changing.

May 12

Spring 2022

We’re finally here. Jessie is home from her first year at Wellesley, Sam is moving into his first summer as a working boy and Julianna is wrapping up her elementary school career. The air is soft and warm, the trees are all dressed and ready for summer and I’m adjusting to this new place in my life.

I don’t have small kids anymore. I’m a mom of teenagers, really. Even though my stepdaughters are in their twenties and my youngest just turned 12, I feel like this middle place is where I am. My kids aren’t adults, not yet, not really. My youngest isn’t technically a teen, but close enough to it that I’m soaking up all the mothering I can still do with her.

Julie is such an odd combination of both very young and far too mature for her age. She still likes her stuffed animals and being put to bed every night, but she’s on her phone and kisses me goodnight and then stays awake for another hour or two. She’s on the bridge between the two, and while I know that this stage is fleeting, I find myself wishing she could stay there a little bit longer, with one foot in childhood and one foot in the next stage.

Sam is edging closer to independence. Small steps that don’t seem all that significant, until it’s actually happening. He manages his own meds now, for example. Not entirely, I still fill his med dispensers with the pills, but he takes them without reminders or fanfare. He’s on meds for everything, anxiety, migraines, allergies and mast cells, so it’s a 3x daily proposition, to be taking his own meds. He’s got reminders and just… does it. He does his own zoom meetings, is starting (very reluctantly) to check his email and keep track of his calendar. It’s both reassuring and disconcerting to see him stepping into this stage.

May 03

Status Updates

We’re a week away from the last day of classes for Jessie and with one year of mothering a college student under my belt – I feel… okay. It was a rough year in a lot of ways, but it was also a really, really good year. She learned a lot about independence and self sufficiency, taking control of her own happiness, figuring out what she wanted and how to get it. It was not always easy – it was never easy. The homesickness never really went away, she just got used to it. I adjusted to life with an adult daughter. Learned to not offer advice, but to listen to her vent and know that my role is to encourage her, validate her, and know with absolute certainty that she’s got this. Because she does.

I feel like this was also a year with a lot of changes for Sam and Julie as well. Sam is finishing up his freshman year, and finally getting all of the services he needs in place. Only to realize that we’re running into another year, and another round of trying to figure out who will provide those services next year. It’s going to be a battle. Every.single.year. And as I’m typing this, I know it’s going to be a battle all the time for Sam – to get the accomodations he needs, the support he needs, the skills… But we’re getting there. Slowly, slowly, but it’s happening. Thank God he’s doing so well academically. Thank God he’s doing so well physically. The spring allergies are doing a number on him, but his overall health is so much better now that he’s on the migraine meds. It’s still a process, adjusting meds, adding new ones, taking some away… but overall, I think we’re on the right path.

Julianna is starting prep for her bat mitzvah. And middle school. She just turned 12 the other day, and I’m slowly starting to come around to the realization that I no longer have any little kids. I mean, I knew that. I don’t have any babies, any toddlers, preschoolers, and pretty soon, I won’t have any elementary school aged kids. I have teenagers, young adults, even.

I’m both wistful and excited about the changes. I love watching Julie grow into herself. I love her empathy, her snark, her sense of humor and her intelligence. I love watching her create and grow and be who she’s supposed to be.

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