The last marking period of the school year is a mixed bag for me. The kids get giddy and restless with the arrival of spring, and summer looms just around the corner. Sports weigh down our schedules and we eat many dinners while driving. See? I told you all those soups in the fridge and protein snacks make sense…
Spring fever aside, we still have end-of-the-year finals and projects to deal with. And I say “we” because the emotional toll is a family affair. Normally I’m too busy juggling our lives and counting down the days until freedom. But this year is different. My son, is minutes away from becoming a senior and my daughter will be in high school the year after next. How did that happen? With everyone jumping for joy and excited for summer, I find myself tearing up with no prior notice at the most inopportune moments.
While home sick for a change, my daughter and I streamed in Saving Mr. Banks and settled under a blanket for some downtime.I anticipated two hours of relaxation and instead found myself on an emotional roller-coaster. My daughter knew the words to all the songs and predicted every scene in the movie. She reminded me of family trips to Disney when she was still scared of the characters, but waited on line for three hours just to meet the princesses (she was never that patient at home).
Years ago, while dodging a Magic Kingdom rainstorm, we received a tip that Mary Poppins was in the bookstore. We flew over like Dick Van Dyke kites and blew in to find an empty store. Miss Poppins, sitting on her reading chair, was waiting for children. I have met celebrities over the years, but I have never been quite as star-struck. For a moment, okay — for an hour — I forgot that she was a costumed Disney employee. My daughter climbed onto her lap and Miss Poppins read an entire book to her. After 5,000 photos and 25 minutes of video we thanked Miss Poppins and I had a hard time saying goodbye both to her, and the magical moment.
In a choked up voice I told her that she is the true and original Disney Princess and my favorite of all time. She whispered, “Thank you dear. That is probably true for most women your age.” The reality check and her sense of humor dried my tears right up. But years later, watching Saving Mr. Banks and reminiscing with my daughter, the trip down memory lane was wet and sappy.
To make matters worse, my husband and son were away on a college tour, leaving us sick girls at home. College? How did that sneak up on me? Even after countless trips to Goodwill, my basement contains several boxes of my seven-year-old’s legos. Did I say seven? I meant seventeen. Yes, he is almost seventeen. It feels like he is still upstairs in his Batman pajamas sprawled out on the floor surrounded by heaps of legos and rescue figures.
Instead he is up to his eyeballs in AP tests, SATs, finals, and research papers, coming down for breaks only to talk about – you guessed it – college. I hate that word. Sure I want him to go to school and become self-sufficient. I want him to grow in ways that neither of us can yet imagine and become all that he can be. Haven’t I pushed for that all these years? But for now, I’m sulking because I didn’t know it would happen so quickly.
To make matters worse, or maybe better, my son got his driver’s license. Carpool logistics are easier to work out and the extra pair of hands on the wheel free me to chauffeur my princess. But the angst that is cluttering my mind over this boy driving is inescapable. The anxiety eases temporarily when he stops at Starbucks and picks up a latte for me, but I haven’t decided if the worry that comes with that mid-afternoon buzz is worth it.
I know I have to let go. That’s what parents do.
“Push the bird out of the nest,” my experienced friends tell me.
Do you understand that the word “bird” alone makes me cry? I will get over it, as all parents do. My children are expanding their horizons and embarking on their natural journeys. This crossroads, is not about me (that sucks!). Their success is my excuse for all the helicoptering and micromanaging I’m so guilty of. I know I’m not being reasonable right now. It’s that time bittersweet time of year.