This past weekend I watched my eldest child get ready for her senior prom. A friend of ours came to the house and spent several hours on her hair and makeup, then my daughter put on her dress, her sparkly jewelry, and her fancy silver high heels. Our friend put “pixie dust” on her shoulders, hair, and back, and she looked just beautiful…and grown up.
It’s that grown-up part I didn’t like . Because that signals to me that changes are coming, ready or not. Pretty soon she’ll graduate from high school, then before we know it she’ll be off to college. And those changes are not going to be easy.
Here’s what I was thinking while she got ready for her big night:
I hate those movies where the mom is going through some crisis and pictures of her children’s lives flicker through her mind in bits and pieces. You know what? That actually happened to me. I pictured her learning to walk on our street in New York City, at her nursery school graduation, her first race on the swim team, those days when she wouldn’t let me brush her hair.
I thought I wouldn’t have a hard time. I thought I’d watch her go off to the prom, then the rest of us would have dinner, then it would just be a typical Saturday evening. But I was in a funk all weekend. My husband kept asking me, “What’s wrong?” And at first I didn’t know, but eventually I realized that it was because something was different- someone wasn’t home and that’s going to be the new normal in just a few fleeting months (actually, my son was away all weekend on a camping trip, too, but he’s got several more years at home). And here’s something weird- just hours after the prom started, I went to bed and I dreamed about my daughter as a baby. I hadn’t done that in years.
I was driving on Sunday, listening to the radio, and Spandau Ballet’s song “Time” came on. I almost lost it. But then I pictured the headlines in my mind (“Prom Mom, Distraught Over Song on Radio, Flips Car on Garden State Parkway”) and managed to keep it all together. But I started to worry- what if “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities comes on? What if “Changes” by David Bowie comes on? I couldn’t bear the thought of it, so I turned the radio off.
Am I doomed to keep the radio off for the rest of my life?
Thought it might stay off for a while, I doubt it will be forever. Because we all survive these changes. If there’s one thing that gives me comfort, it’s this: millions upon millions of parents all over the world have had these exact same thoughts for centuries – probably longer – including, I suspect, my own parents. And everyone turns out fine. Life goes on. It’s not easy at first, as I’m beginning to learn, but I will eventually get used to the new normal. And by the time I get used to it, my younger daughter will be ready to graduate…. then my son… but let’s not go there now.
I used to worry that if I remained a stay-at-home mother forever, what would happen when all my kids went off to college, then careers, then homes of their own? What would I do with myself? I knew I didn’t want to practice law again. And that’s part of the beauty of writing. I hope I can do it forever. I work at it full-time now, so I’ll continue to throw myself into it during all the changes that will be taking place over the coming months and years. And writing is already helping me through the transitions, because they’re starting, ready or not.
Until next week,