I hit a new milestone over the weekend.
My baby, the Peanut, the grand finale, the one who made her appearance in dramatic fashion in the middle of an ice storm, turned 18.
All of my children are now officially adults. Some are adultier than others, and we are not empty nesters yet as long as Number Four is still finishing high school and planning her future.
But this is still a pretty significant milestone.
I am not a sentimental person by nature. I feel deep things deeply, but I don’t tend to get teary over mementos or photos or even memories.
But damn, I’d be lying if I said this birthday didn’t hit me in the feels a little. Or a lot.
Gradually, Then All At Once
One of the weirdest things about your kids growing up is how gradually things change until they just all change at once.
This hit home on Sunday when I was thinking about how many miles I drove over the last year or so. I got a new car in July, and in the last six months of 2022, I put fewer than 2,500 miles on it. More than half of that was accrued during my trip to Oregon in December. Not only was there the drive down to Oregon and back, but I also did three day trips to various places in Oregon during that visit.
This is a far cry from just a few years ago when I was driving kids to and from school. I used to spend–no lie–about 1.5 – 2 hours every day on school runs. And then, gradually, Number Four finished elementary school, so we dropped that run… And then Number One took himself to school, and then Number Two took herself and her younger brother to school… And then Number Four rode to school with Number Three until COVID shut everything down…
And gradually-but-all-of-a-sudden, I wasn’t driving as much.
It’s sort of the same with cooking. When Number One moved out, it wasn’t too tough to adapt to cooking for five instead of six. But when Number Two went to college, I had a really hard time adapting from five to four. The difference between four people and five is a pound of meat. Cooking just one pound wasn’t always enough, especially when one of the four people was a teenage boy. So I kept cooking for five. We had leftovers all the time, and they often didn’t get eaten.
Now, up here in Idaho, if and when I cook, I cook for three, and I still don’t get it right. I throw out leftovers all the time. Pretty soon, we’ll be down to two people again. I haven’t cooked for two on a regular basis since before my oldest started eating solid food sometime in 2000.
On the flip side, my time has also changed gradually. As frustrated as I get with my inability to balance work and home, I confess that I am still more productive and have a lot more time to write than I did back when I was doing school runs, AHG, and dinner prep every week. I went from hoping to cram a few minutes of writing into my day to wondering why it’s so tough to devote more than four or five hours a day to work.
A Bird’s Eye View… Sort Of…
And so gradually-but-all-at-once, I am a parent of all adult children. And when you kind of stand above it and analyze it, it’s scary and weird and sad and exciting and poignant and hopeful all at once.
Of course, me being me, my analysis of where I am at this point is nuanced. I can’t help but see all the mistakes I made and wish for do-overs. I have been reluctant host to all of the Demons of Shitty Parenting for several days–all of them chattering and nattering about the things I missed, the things I should have done, the things I shouldn’t have done, the things I worried about that turned out to be nothing, the things I didn’t worry about that I should have paid more attention to…
But also… I can see the ways in which my children have survived my bad parenting and managed to build and start building solid lives for themselves.
And that makes me think that maybe I didn’t suck at it as much as I think I did.
Number Four still has a ways to go. For one thing, she’s still a senior and has to graduate high school, and she doesn’t have any specific plans for after that. She knows she’s welcome to live here while she figures it out.
But I’m hopeful. She’s a talented artist, and I’m hopeful that she’ll find a path that feeds her soul even as she brings in an income. That path may not include formal college, and that’s okay. She has time.
And I’m hopeful for the others. Number One is pretty settled now. His wife is a huge blessing, and I may be biased, but their boys are probably the cutest kids in North America, at least. Number Two kid is now in her final semester of nursing school, sailing through her classes, and looking at positions for after graduation. Number Three took some time off after high school, but now he’s enrolled at community college, intending to major in geology. He has a job and roommates and a very sweet girlfriend.
I think this is only the beginning of the bird’s eye view. I can’t imagine that my parents see the same thing in their children now that they saw thirty years ago.
For now, I can be thankful that they all survived to adulthood…
… and set my sights on my own second act.