It’s been a crazy week where the highs have been really high and the lows have been tough to get through. I’m not taking it in stride, as I usually try to do. I’m not focusing on the positives and remembering the big picture of forward progress. I’ve had a sadness this week, I just can’t kick.
There has to be something else going on, I think. I’ve learned this from Charlie. How when he is carrying the weight and anxiety of something bigger, less tangible, the added weight of the daily challenges are just that much harder.
But, I can’t imagine what that thing is for me. The boys are about to go away for a week with The Professor, something I’ve been almost desperately looking forward to for almost a year since she and I first conceived the idea of separating our trips to visit family this year to save on summer camp. They will be spending the week in a very rustic cabin, on a private island, off the coast of Maine. This sounds very glamorous, and it is lovely, but I won’t miss having to haul a weeks worth of food, water, and supplies for everyone in by boat and wheel barrow, trying to use the salty ocean water to bathe, and digging a trench in which to empty the contents of the outhouse at week’s end.
So a week to myself, sounds brilliant, right? Nothing to feel sad about there. It must be PMS, I finally reasoned. It makes me a little extra sappy sometimes. Last month, I started crying when that MMMBop Hansen song came on the radio because I started thinking how sweet it was that those boys got to live their dream. So, unreasonable sadness, yeah I’m thinking PMS.
Our usual morning routine is that the boys and I walk the 15 minutes to the school where a bus picks up Charlie for his summer camp. Then Tommy and I walk home and hop in the car for me to drive him downtown to his camp. The bonus time alone with Tommy every morning has been wonderful.
He and I were walking one morning, talking about the upcoming trip. I don’t talk about it a lot in front of Charlie because it just increases his anxiety to have to think about it.
A whole week, Tommy. I’ve never been away from you for a whole week before. I’m going to miss you so much. That’s when I felt it. That tightness gripping my chest and I finally understood what that lingering sadness was all about.
You see, I’m a helicopter mom, as I hear them called. I didn’t plan to be. I didn’t even want to be one. But, that’s not what my life turned out to be.
If my kids are in a public play space I have to hover to check Charlie’s mood. So, I join in their play.
I can’t drop my kids at the gym daycare and workout so we go on hikes in the woods together for exercise instead.
It’s too disruptive for Charlie to hire a babysitter or to drop the boys with a friend so we can go out on a date night, so we have family movie night instead.
Understanding the things that happen during Charlie’s day is paramount to helping him regulate, so I have at least monthly meetings with his teaching staff. I get daily reports on what he does during the day. I meet him for lunch at school once a week. Everyone at the school knows me and I get stopped to hear stories about both of my kids every time I go. I’ve had private meetings and regular access to school officials most parents will likely barely speak to during their kids school careers.
While most parent’s of six year old’s are rightly stepping back and allowing their kids the space to navigate many of these things on their own, I am not. I am right there. I have to be.
This is not the way I envisioned I would parent. I was sure I was going to model the importance of me having a life and being a whole person outside of them. It just hasn’t worked out that way and I certainly don’t regret it. There is little that happens in my kid’s lives that I am not a part of and that joy of getting to watch your kids discover and learn about the world is ever present for me.
So, suddenly, with that statement to Tommy about never having been away from them for a week, I realized why I had been so sad.
I will be missing their new experiences. I will be missing their apprehension and accomplishment learning to sail for the first time on the tiny dinghy of a boat where The Professor once taught me. I will be missing the wonderment on their faces when they first discover the phosphorescence of the cold ocean waters during a midnight swim. I won’t be discovering beautiful rocks with Tommy or catching bugs with Charlie. A part of them will grow and mature, just a little bit more, because of this latest experience and I won’t be there to see it.
I’ve been blessed so far in parenting. Blessed to get to hold onto all of those moments just a little longer than many parents get to.
Ultimately, the steps away from me are a wonderful thing for them and I will surely luxuriate for a week of sleeping in and doing as I please and we will all be stronger in the end for it.
But, the letting go just hurts a little.