If you were a fly on the wall in my house today, you would see me bouncing around from one activity to another. I’m cleaning, I’m reading, I’m laundering, I’m writing, I’m texting, I’m talking. My mother would say I’ve got “ants in my pants,” but I can’t help it. It’s Christmas Eve in June. My baby comes home tomorrow.
After 17 days, Molly Grace will be back from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She left on a red eye out of Tijuana on the 13th with good friends to vacation and to learn about the culture and language of Mexico. She went to school, cheered on El Tri in the World Cup, won a Corona beer dispenser for her dad and finally succumbed to Montezuma’s Revenge in the last few days. All in all, I’d say she’s had a pretty amazing time. I’m really happy for her, but I’m ready for “amazing” to be over, so I can hold her in my arms again.
A week after Molly left, Kiko also departed for a new adventure. She packed a bag and headed to Huntington Beach for two weeks to live with her grandparents and intern at Roadtrip Nation in the graphic design department. She’s been working with Photoshop and I-design and had her work posted to their Facebook page. Though she’s home for a day this weekend to visit (and let me do her laundry), she’s eager to return to work tomorrow.
Finn has been an only child and an easy child at that! He goes to work every morning as a jr. lifeguard assistant, comes home mid-afternoon to eat and then disappears with his friends in the neighborhood to watch World Cup, play soccer and video games, swim and eat some more. He passes out before ten every night, exhausted from his busy schedule of work and play and food intake. Apart from newborns, I think teenage boys are the best example of the simple mechanics of human biology. With little to no fuss, they eat, sleep, poop, work, play; repeat. When allowed to follow their circadian rhythms, they grow at a superhuman rate. Under the cover of darkness, they stretch out and bulk up all at the same time.
I love that my chicks are out of the nest, that we’ve raised them to be independent, brave and adventurous, that their manners are such that other people actually like having them around. I love all that and I would never stop them from doing the things they are doing, and yet, I woke this morning with a big smile on my face, knowing that in 24 hours, the whole crew would be back together, even if only for 24 hours. I won’t get them all sleeping under the same roof, but they will all be in view. I will be able to hold them and hug them at will (their will, of course; mine might be overwhelming).
Strangely enough, it was almost harder to watch my 17-year-old drive just 100 miles away for a week, than it was to watch my 12-year-old fly off to another country for half a month. One was foreshadowing; the other was just a vacation. I waved goodbye to Molly with a grin on my face, knowing we’d be talking every day. She was going to have a good time, but she was going to miss us something fierce. Her heart is here. When Kiko headed up the 5 Freeway, I knew she wasn’t looking back in any way. Her heart is in her own chest and her eyes are focused on the future, the “out there,” beyond us and our hometown. In a year or so, Keara will be driving away for good, with Finn not far behind. The empty nest is approaching and the past few weeks have given Tim and I an idea of what’s in store: a lot more time together, just the two of us. Luckily, that’s not a bad thing.
Tim and I have always been mindful that our marriage comes first. We got some great advice when we were first married, which has been echoed through the years from various sources.
“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The reverse is also true. “The best thing a mother can do for her children is to love their father.”
We took that message to heart when it was easy (which was before we had kids) and we’ve tried to hold on to it as things have gotten harder (the last seventeen years). At times, we’ve prioritized the kids’ wants and needs, sports and schoolwork, saying yes to too many things, telling ourselves that “the kids come first.” But every time we’ve gone down that path, even for a few months at a time, we look at each other and shake our heads, wondering how we got so off track. We’re burnt out and sad, feeling isolated from the person we love and respect the most. We aren’t doing the “best thing” we can for our kids anymore, even though that was our intention. So we pull back the next season, saying no to a few more things, saying yes to a few less. Over the years, we’ve learned that being right with each other is the only way anything else can be right at all.
Every once in a while, I think the universe gives us a glimpse of what is to come. It’s like the fog clears for just a moment and if you are paying attention, you can learn a lot about the road that lies ahead. If you’ve got your head down and miss it, you might be in for a nasty surprise. I think these last couple weeks were a moment of clarity for me. I enjoyed our almost-empty nest, but only because it was temporary. More importantly, it gave me a sense of what was to come and what I need to do to prepare for it.
When Keara was born, we were given a gift by a woman whose own children were close to grown. In the card, she had hand-written a portion of Kahlil Gibran’s poem, “The Prophet.” I read it then, with no comprehension of what it meant. Today, I understand it better, but I hope that by the time I have to release them from my bow, I will have fully embraced the wisdom therein.
“On Children” by Kahlil Gibran