Having put another Memorial Day Weekend in the books and facing the beginning of June, I can’t help but admit this Summer is undoubtedly different. My daughter has graduated middle school, is set to begin her first real summer job and has a to-do list that includes saving for her first car, driving in less than two years and graduating high school in four.
As a parent, these are the goals I strive for her to set and achieve. However, they are bittersweet milestones reminding me that the end game here is an empty nest. That empty nest seemed far away when she learned to read and write, ride a bike and make her own snacks. But when plans to fly the coop are down to years I can count on one hand, that nest and all of its spacious glory starts coming into focus.
And for the first time since conception was planned and I began downing orange juice for the folic acid, I am having to shift my focus from my child to myself. It seems almost unnatural. Sacrilege! Yes, I have four more years of class schedules, homework checks, sporting events, band concerts and science fairs. But the days of me having to coordinate all of these events have given way to me being informed of her schedule and knowing where to be and what time to show up.
So, I find myself not only looking to my daughter’s next chapter but mine as well. While she is fast approaching high school, learning to drive, and scouting colleges, I am fast approaching middle age (I intend to live to 100), learning to make myself a priority and scouting neighborhoods closer to work. I am acutely aware that the next four years are going to be life changing for us both.
And while there is a road map to help with her transition . . . tests, electives, community service, scholarships and grants . . . my path seems to be more akin to a jaunt through the Haunted Forest in the Wizard of Oz. I am having to face flying monkeys in the form of very stark realities.
Have you ever stopped to look at yourself in the bathroom mirror? Not while racing to put on morning make-up or brushing your teeth or slathering on moisturizer after your shower. But to really LOOK at yourself? I did and Honey, it was frightening. Who is this frazzled woman? And when the Hell did she get crow’s feet?
It’s as if I’m meeting myself for the first time. I am older, wiser and more patient in some aspects (I can juggle a stressed-out teenager, puking dog and burning dinner like nobody’s business) and less patient in other aspects (Please. Stop. CHEWING!). My sky-high heels and Keds have given way to sensible Espadrilles and socks with little rubber nubbins on the bottom. Conversely, my four speed Sentra has given way to an SUV with bluetooth and trendy chunky jewelry has been replaced by Pandora. This grown-up thing just might have benefits . . .
But I also realize I don’t know what I like anymore. The things that interested me in my twenties now boggle my mind. How is it I lived in the DC area and never visited a single historical site yet knew the Metro stops to all the liquor stores and closing times to bars in Virginia, DC and Maryland? And I have no hobbies. Wait. What? How is this possible?
Thus begins my quest. Who am I? What do I enjoy doing? How do I want to spend my free time? Am I an artist and crafter? Photographer? A volunteer? Blogger? One of the few New Year’s Resolutions I have ever kept was one made this year to do or try something new once a month. Simple acts that force me outside my day-to-day existence to experience the world around me. I have attended college sporting events, taken a train trip and had my first Insta-meet. The possibilities of new locales, activities and adventures are as endless as they are exciting! But this isn’t just fun and games, I have a future to plan!
So, I am approaching the next four years as a search and recovery mission. I need to find myself and plan for the new chapter that lies ahead. I have given my daughter a strong foundation and as it should be, she is beginning to spread her wings. So, now I must show her that no matter our age, strong women don’t fade away or shrink from change . . . they flourish and kick ass!