By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
I’m still trying to decide how I feel about what happened this morning. On one hand, it was amazing and wonderful. On the other? Surprising and a little bit sad. Here’s how it went down:
At 6:30 a.m., I hit the snooze button once. I don’t remember hitting it again but clearly, I did – at least a few times. When I finally surfaced from a coma-like sleep, I glanced at the clock and panicked. It was 7:35 a.m. and the house was completely quiet, which meant my three kids (ages 17, 15 and 12) were definitely going to be late for school.
I scrambled out of bed and was just about to sprint down the hallway to wake them up. That’s when I heard my iPhone make a familiar ping – the arrival ping. Thanks to a glorious smartphone app which must’ve been designed by a fellow parent as anxious and paranoid as I am, my phone pings when my kids arrive at school.
Impossible, I thought. Could it be a malfunction?
But then I realized that their bedrooms were empty. Backpacks and lunchboxes were gone. And my oldest son’s car had disappeared from the driveway. They really were arriving at school. They’d done it all without me.
I texted our 17-year-old. “Thank you for getting everyone out the door on time.” A few seconds later, he replied. “No problem.”
I walked into my home office and sat down to write with a flood of mixed emotions. Part of me is impressed and proud. The whole point of parenthood is to work yourself out of a job, right? We’re supposed to transform them from completely dependent beings into capable, self-sufficient people. They’d made it to school without my usual scurrying around the kitchen, reminding them to pack a lunch and tuck in their shirt. They didn’t need my help.
But the other part of me – the part who swears it was just yesterday when the three of them were all under the age of 6 and constantly needed my help – is a little stunned. A little sad. This morning they didn’t need me. I wasn’t as necessary as I used to be. I felt like an old, dusty VCR in an age of streaming video.
Trust me, I’m not complaining. I know this is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a blessing. I know there are millions of sleep-deprived parents of little ones who would give their left arm for a chance to hit the snooze button and sleep an extra hour in the morning. I remember those days, too.
But this is new territory. I’ve spent so many years being the conductor making sure the family trains run on time. And now? What am I? This morning it felt like I was a sad old lady standing on the platform waving goodbye to the train long after it left the station.
I also realized how strange it is to feel two completely opposite emotions at the same time – liberation and loss, triumph and fear.
This parenting journey really does change over time nearly as much as the kids do. In the early years, the work was incredibly physical – a real marathon of endurance and patience. And then it changes. The work becomes more emotional – a test of knowing when to step in and when to step aside, when to take charge and when to be a cheerleader once they take charge of themselves.