Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Countdown to Let-Go

It occurred to me the other day. If things go the way we hope, I have about 25 days before it all changes. The beginning of the end. Welcome to my midlife melancholy melodrama.

In about 25 days, Valentine’s Day to be exact, my “baby” will go for her driver’s test. If all goes well, and I think it should, she’ll earn her driver’s license. She’ll be able to drive on her own.

Now, the license isn’t a guarantee. She might get a crabby tester or she might forget to signal or stop improperly or parallel park badly or a combination of all of the above. But even if she doesn’t pass the first time, she will inevitably take it again until she does and then things will change. Sooner rather than later.

What a strange place this is for me. I can remember when she and her brother were very young. I’d have these little daydreams where I’d wonder how fabulous it would be when I could leave the house when I wanted. In my mind, it all seemed like such a fantasy.

What’s that they say? Be careful what you ask for?

I know that this is the beginning of a whole new set of worries. Things to obsess over far worse than whether bathtime and bedtime will again be a giant battle of wills. My worries now turn to headline-inducing nightmares. Drunk-drivers. Mechanical failure. Toxic temptations. Bad people and choices out and about in the world, crossing her path.

And I’m not saying that what I’m giving up is all sunshine and roses. Seriously, another car ride in which I feel like I’m part of the Spanish Inquisition just trying to find out how the school day went is not a walk in the park. But at least it’s something.

In 25 days, she’ll drive away. She’ll come home every night and at least at first, she’ll probably be ecstatic and talkative. She will still need me for lots of things but for one small thing, transportation, she won’t. And for that, I’m a teeny bit sad. It’s the beginning of the loosening of my maternal death grip. Sigh.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Calling

What are you doing the rest of your life?
North and South and East and West of your life
I have only one request of your life
That you spend it all with me

What Are You Doing the Rest Of Your Life?
-Music by Michel Legrand Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman

The rest of your life. Think about that - right now. What are YOU doing the rest of YOUR life? Pretty daunting thought, isn’t it? Yeah, in fact, I think if somebody asked you that question, you might be kind of irritated. I would be.

Yet, for some reason, we basically ask this question of college kids all the time. It’s no wonder they sleep past noon and grunt in response. They’re avoiding that question, dammit!

Everybody loves college kids. We live vicariously through them and beg them to share wild college stories when they come home on break. It stirs up our own fond memories of those crazy carefree days.

But were they ever really that carefree? As I watched my own college kid when he was home on break, I suddenly remembered back to those days – a quarter of a century ago. (Gulp.) There’s one thing that I’d forgotten – that prevailing sense of fear. The idea that sure, college is fun and all, but what the heck am I going to do when I get out of this place?!

I was raised Catholic and the nuns, in their never-ending attempts to lure us into a life of “serving the Lord,” spent a lot of time talking to us kids about “getting the call.” They’d ease us into the idea by saying that everyone has a “calling.” A special job that God created us to do. Some of us were doctors or lawyers or, gasp!, priests and nuns! Back then, I took things pretty literally. Not that I had anything against the clergy, but let’s just say that I avoided the phone like the plague. What if I got the call?! I don’t want THE CALL.

Eventually, I worked past that and spent years trying to find my passion. And although I had some fits and starts, I think I did figure out if not my destination, at least the direction I should be headed.

For some reason, it all seems tougher today. As much as we had choices 25 years ago, you can take those choices and multiply them ten-fold. And because of that, I think there’s an assumption that this makes it easier on college kids. I think it’s tougher. To me, it’s like shopping for eggs in the world’s largest grocery store. You just want eggs. Not choices – eggs.

As parents, this is where it gets really frustrating. We want nothing more than our kids finding something that they are passionate about. Because we know that the years wear on you and if you don’t love what you do 40 hours a week, life gets a lot harder. But there’s absolutely nothing we can do to help them. Nothing. No really. Despite our best efforts, they’ll either find it or they won’t and it will have almost nothing to do with us.

What we can do is encourage them, even if we don’t understand or like what they’re doing. (OK, sure, you can draw the line at illegal, but I’m just saying that we should be open-minded.) And we can probably stop asking them that question, because we already know the answer.