Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Every Door In My House Squeaks, or, "F... that WD-40!"
I remember crying when I dropped William off at first grade. Not too much, though, because I still had Ethan with me for most of the day, and still had lots of logistics to manage for Melissa and Kristen. Life was a whirlwind, then, with little time to think about theoretical feelings of separation. I was thankful for the quiet time, which left me time to shower (alone), clean up the house, and shop/work as required. We only had one dog then, so dog management also wasn't a priority. My father was alive, which also kept me busy.
These days, our life is so completely different from those early years of our marriage that it's amazing we are the same people. We now have three dogs, five children mostly grown, no Grandpa Patrick, and, for the first time in my life, I am sad about the prospect of my child(ren) leaving home, albeit temporarily. Ethan's departure for college in the fall is predictable, customary, and exciting. Will's move into an apartment in Boston will also be exciting and is a great thing for him and us. Julia's departure for 3.5 weeks of camp, however, is a Completely Different Story.
Of course, both Bill and I have recognized we can't even talk too much about Julia's departure, lest she become aware of how much we will miss her, leading to homesickness, etc.. which would be a Disaster. On the other hand, Julia is SO excited about going away to camp that to a certain extent her excitement is contagious. She's dropped a few hints of anxiety, such as "I'm afraid the dogs won't recognize me when I come home," and "When am I going to see the new Twilight movie if they don't take us to the premiere?", but that anxiety has very little to do with missing me ....
My experience has been that when a child leaves home, for a week or more, a family changes in the most basic ways. No matter how loud or quiet the absent child is, with him/her the family has adapted to a format that requires all its members to participate uniquely in order to function in a traditional, predictable way. When one ingredient in the family formula goes missing, the family behaves in an entirely different way, as children and parents are forced to take on new roles and altered relationships. This isn't a bad thing, it just requires adaptation, a willingness to change, and everyone's mutual understanding of each other's fragile emotions over the following several weeks.
No matter how well we've all adapted over the years, Julia's growing up is something that I/we really haven't prepared for. Sleepaway camp is a Parental Alert that my youngest child is getting older, more independent, and that high school and college are not that far away. We've done it before, of course, for years and years and years it seems. This time feels different, though, and not different in a good ("you'll discover more about yourself" "you'll have lots of free time" "it will be really quiet, hmm?" "now you'll have time for golf" "you can train for another marathon" "the yard needs some attention" "we can see more movies") kind of way. It feels different in a "What am I going to do without her?" kind of way, which is Extremely Strange.
No doubt we'll be fine. But, I've stopped looking for the WD-40. To hell with that!
p.s. The Graduation Gang at Ethan's SJP Graduation in May. So Thankful for everyone who celebrated with us (including Nana and Grampie, who didn't make the picture).