I am watching my youngest babies getting ready to leave for college. I am watching as they pack their things, sorting through a lifetime of possessions that they are placing into piles.
I am watching as they decide that a curling iron is indispensable even though I have never seen either of them use one. I am watching as they fight over who will take the hiking boots, who will take the red shirt that I thought they both hated, who will take the bicycle pump.
I am trying not to think about the fact that their little stuffed dogs, the ones with their noses worn off by years of bedtime snuggling, years of holding them tight, even in sleep, are not being considered indispensable.
Instead, I am thinking that there is no way all of this will fit into our car. I am thinking that I am going to have to take time off of work, during my busiest time of year, to help them move in. I am thinking that I hate the fact that they have two different move in days. I am thinking that I wish this was over and I could go back to my normal life.
It is here when I find myself having to leave the room, upset at having to watch the parade of their childhood memories that is the result of sorting through all of their things.
It occurs to me that I know my house won’t be the same after moving day. I know that my life won’t be the same.
The whole rhythm of my day will change. I know this. I used to cook for seven people. Then, when my oldest children left, I cooked for five. When my middle one went, it dwindled down to four. And now, as my youngest two children are leaving, it will just be two. I have been a mother for most of my adult life and this change will take some getting used to. I have cared for and cried over and sang to and held each one of my children and I had the good fortune to love every minute while I did it.
My life has been filled with my kids. There were marching band competitions to go to, plays to watch, parent-teacher conferences, carpools and laundry. So much laundry!
There were days that I hid in the bathroom for far too long just to get a few minutes of peace. And there were days when I dreamed of a clean and quiet house. I didn’t love those days quite as much as others. But I still loved the experience of raising my children. I loved the chaos and constant barrage of activity and the noise and the busyness of all of it.
I know, and my children know, that I am still (and will always be) the mother they need. But I also know that my life, my day to day, is going to be very different than it has been. And I am sad.
But—and I may have to remind myself of this every hour or so for a while—I also know that we, all of us, are only here for a brief moment. We all got the gift of coming into this world, we all got the gift of being a small child. If we are lucky, we get the gift of being cared for and loved. Of growing up, of falling in love, of having our own children and starting them on the same road we have been traveling on.
If we are lucky, we understand that our job as parents is to care for our children for as long as they need us to and then let them travel the road themselves.
If we are lucky, we get to see that we always knew this gift of taking care of them was temporary. That we would have to relinquish the care of these beautiful people we had the honor to nurture and love so that they could get started on their next steps too.
If we are lucky, they fall in step with us and parts of their journey will intertwine with our own. If we are lucky, we see that there are so many other gifts ahead for each of us after our paths diverge.
And if we are really lucky, we will get to travel this road until we are very old and have had our chance to sample everything this life has to offer. It is the adventure that matters and, if we are among the luckiest, we will have walked the road facing forward, not backwards, meeting our new adventures head first, not missing a minute or longing for the past.
So as my last two children pack their things and weigh the value of each, I’ll let myself feel sad. I’ll let the melancholy wash over me for as long as I need it to. And then, well, I will continue on the road to my next adventure.