It's time for us to have a little talk. You are all almost adults now, and that requires some adjusting. Things change when you come home, and that's where this letter really begins: two of you don't live here anymore, you visit. While you've been out in the world, I've been figuring out my new path. So let's get a few things cleared up.
While I was clearly born to be your mother, I was not born your mother.
I evolved into it, through many years of trial and error, highs and lows, and a lot of love. This progression is critical to our future understanding of each other. I was not born a mom; I became one. I had an important life before you, and now as you each leave me, to figure out your own paths, I'm figuring out mine. It's the me that comes after all the fun of raising you: Me 2.0. One day, when you have your own children, you too may find yourself a little disoriented, and it may be hard to remember that this important life you're living right now, ever happened.
It's so easy to forget who you were, before you were blinded by your children's sparkle.
There was a me, before there was a mom. I was my parent's first child, and I was loved and very special to them. I had adventures and experiences as a child and teenager that helped mold me. As a young woman I went out and explored the world, like you are now. I dated and I was a lover -- more than three times -- there, I've said it. I fell in love, and I had my heart broken. When I met your dad, everything changed. We dated a long time, and fell in love. We met each other's families and eventually decided to get married. We had some fights along the way, and made up again and again. We stayed the course, and have lasted nearly 30 years, because we understand that relationships take work and commitment.
After more than a quarter of a century of life, and three years as a wife, I became a mother. If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed something: none of these experiences -- until that last one, involved you. In fact, this time line suggests that I had a very full life before you came. Now, I'm looking forward to a very full life as each of you go, and I shift on my axis again.
However, just because I've been there and done that, doesn't mean it's easy to start anew. Just as confused, nervous and excited as you may feel about going off to college, graduating and finding your way in the world after college, I'm feeling the same things about the changes in my life. I've made a lot of progress in letting go, but it's a marathon, not a sprint. I've learned to sleep well at night despite not knowing where two of you are or what you're doing. I've adjusted to two of you living in other countries, and accept that my youngest will leave this nest soon, too. I think I'm doing pretty well in the stop, drop and roll of parenting. I've done a lot of adjusting; now it's your turn.
Here are a few of the things I'd like to see you focus on:
1) While I'm grateful and proud that when you visit family and friends, your dad and I hear that you are respectful, polite, helpful, fun to have around, and overall great people -- truly, it warms this mother's heart -- I'd love to see that same thing at home. You guys have chosen to live in far away places; that's great! It's what you were raised to do: fly! I love that you are finding exciting lives and feeling happy where you've landed. But spread the love my little birds! When you come home, take a moment to collect your bearings. Things will have moved and shifted during flight.
Don't take it personally: the cereal isn't there anymore, it works better for me, here. Just because your closet makes a good storage area now, doesn't mean we don't love you. As I walk into each of your rooms, I still miss you; then I put my stuff where yours used to be.
When I visit you, I will do things the way you want them done, so when you come home, you need to take a deep breath and just be an adult. If I want dishes washed and put away when you're done eating, do it. If you don't like the way we do things, we understand that; we didn't like the way our parents did things. Your grandparents weren't born your grandparents either; they were our parents -- I know, scary how the world isn't exactly what you always thought. We get that it doesn't always seem fair. However, it's a right of passage- but your rights end there. At home, it's our way or ... well, there's just our way. Mi casa es mi casa, now. You are our favorite guest, and you're always welcome -- until you aren't.
2) I have thoughts, feelings, experiences to share with you. I know we're never going to be best friends -- I'm here to be your mother. However, I do like all three of you an awful lot. I would pick each of you out in a crowd. You're charismatic, intelligent, interesting, and fun people. I love hearing your stories; I adore sharing in your lives. I want honesty and respect between us, and I accept that I'm no longer totally in charge. But don't be confused; at home, I am still the boss.
Ask me about my day, ask me about my life, and then listen to the answers.
I may have some interesting things to share; you may have something to learn from me, at this stage. Don't cut me off, because you think you've heard it all before, or because I sound like... well, your mother. Yes, I repeat stories sometimes, but that's because those stories are important to me. Believe it or not: I lived in an apartment and learned to cook, pay bills, and deal with roommates. I went to an excellent college and kept excellent grades- and no, it wasn't easier then. I went to grad school -- and yes, I wish I had waited, and done some other things first. I fell in love, and had my heart broken ... more than once. Trust me: hearts still break the same way, and only time heals. Deciding what to do in life was then, and still is, complicated and challenging. I haven't forgotten these things; I have some wisdom to share. Of course, you'll learn your own lessons, but it helps to have a guide sometimes. I'm in it for the long haul. So ask me, and then listen ... patiently.
3) Listening patiently is a skill; it takes practice. As your parents, there were a lot of years when your dad and I told you what we thought/wanted/expected, and you listened. I've said it for years: this is not a democracy, and when you were little, that was especially true. That, too, is shifting. As adults, we have things to learn from you, as well. If we all slow down a little and listen more patiently, we'll all come out wiser and happier on the other side. It's so easy to fall into old patterns that we formed in our many years of living together. Just as you are out there growing and changing, please accept that I'm growing and changing too. Apparently you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks- but, I'm not as keen to fetch these days, as to play. When we see each other, don't assume you know what I think, what I feel, or what I meant to say. Listen to the words; don't just anticipate the meaning. I'm trying to do the same thing.
Marathon, babies, marathon.
4) Show some respect, and we will do the same. Again, I am not your friend; I am your parent, and an adult. I have earned the right to some seniority, just as you are now in the process of earning your rights. Don't challenge me, as if I'm your peer. If I tell you to pick something up and put it away, do not point out that I need to put something away too. I've put countless things away that are not mine, since you were born. Let me be very clear about this: if we were to keep score, I'd win, hands down. So show some respect. Some day, when you are saying these same things to your kids, you may want me in your court. Bank on that.
5) Know that no matter how old you are; no matter how much more you know about a given subject (that happens a lot, lately), no matter how far away you go, or what you do, I will always be your Mom first. It informs everything I do, and is as natural to me as breathing; it cannot be turned on and off. So when I sound more like a mother than an interested second party, that's because I am. All of this will be tested in those moments when my heart is tugged, and I forget the new directions we're all traveling in. Don't throw it in my face; don't challenge it; Embrace it! There are far worse things in life than to be loved this much; the sooner you accept that, the better things will be between us.
It's hard to summarize all of the lessons and thoughts that I want to pass on. It's even harder to keep pace in that marathon. Remember, we all stumble and we all shine, given the day or hour. I celebrate your journey and hope you'll celebrate mine. Life is short; the years fly by. The sooner we find our groove, the nicer it is for each of us.
I love each of you, independently and collectively, more than you can know, now. By the time you do know, you'll have your own lessons to teach ... and I'll have grandchildren to spoil.