Change is hard.
For 14 years, on the first day of school, I've taken pictures of my sons smiling (and not so smiling) on the front porch, after a big breakfast. It was our annual ritual before hopping in the car to drive to school. The picture to the left is from 2007.
Fast forward to 2012. My older son has returned to college, a thousand miles away. And on the first day of school, my younger son, a high school senior, gave only a shrug when I offered up to make pancakes and sausage. Instead, he cheerily said, "Bye, Mom!", walked out to the garage, settled in behind the wheel--my seat for so many years--and drove himself to school.
I completely forgot about the annual photo on the front porch until he was pulling out of the garage. I managed to snap a photo from the front door.
Change is hard, when it means giving up not just rituals, but control.
(I was somewhat vindicated when the phone rang a few minutes past 8 on the first day of school. It was the high school counselor, sitting with my son in her office. There was a scheduling mixup, which put my son in a middle school study hall. In fixing his schedule, my son also needed my consent on an AP class that he wanted to drop. What little power and authority I still have over the mind and body of a rebellious 17-year old, I'll take.)
I am trying to snap out of it--my old mental model of being a youngish mother of middle school kids, the early years of diapers and child rearing behind me and the college years, transforming adolescents into independent adults, still far away.
The reality is that I am 50-something and on the verge of being an empty nester. My brother and sister-in-law are experiencing that this fall, after raising three girls who are now lovely young women. I don't envy them, even though they seem to be happy with weekend trips and volunteer work.
All of this has made me wonder about my mother, now in her eighties--how she survived change. In the course of a few short years, she buried a husband, remarried, moved to another state, changed jobs, and saw the last of her three children go off to college, in places far enough away to think twice about a quick visit. She did it without showing much angst, at least none that I could see.
(BTW--a mother's dream does come true. After being scattered to the winds, across states and countries for decades, all of her four children now live close by, from a few minutes walk down the street to 30-minute drive across town. The picture is me with Mom at my older son's high school graduation party.)
Change is hard, and it's survivable. My mother showed me that.
I may not like that I'm entering a new phase of my life--one without kids in the house and one with a body that gains weight all too easily and gets gray hairs between dye jobs. That's the new normal.
What I can do is stop resisting. Or at least give up trying to resist. Resistance is not just futile. It's draining.
Change is hard, and resisting makes it worse. Resisting is a perfectly human reaction, that doesn't serve me.
What I can do is remember, that when the mourning stops, I can embrace the opportunity that change always provides. It's there, if I choose to remember--when I lost a parent, when I left being an employee (hopefully, forever), when my oldest child first went away to college a year ago. Those losses have led to a wonderful relationship with a loving stepfather, to the reward and thrill of a second career as an entrepreneur, to the satisfaction of seeing my son be self-sufficient (and the indulgence of a spare bedroom turned into an office for nine months out of the year.)
I'm getting used to the new normal--Skype calls on Sundays with my son at college, turning over the car keys to my younger son to run errands, more time with aging parents, less laundry and lower food bills, and planning more getaways with my husband.
Change is hard, and it's worth it. The new normal is here to stay.