Tuesday, June 7, 2011


This week I spent an inordinate amount of time ironing David’s high school graduation gown. I have ironed three graduation gowns in my married life . . . and David’s was, by far, my least favorite. It took so much time partly because interruptions are pretty much constant when you have cute, little people in your stewardship, partly because I haven’t ironed since Britta was born, nearly four years ago—mind you—and have likely lost my touch (but that’s a blog post all it’s own), and partly because it was really wrinkled and I have been known to be a little OCD at times. . . but MOSTLY it took so much time because it was a symbolic and emotional trip down memory lane. Where has the time gone, anyway?

When I was finishing up graduate school and ironing my own gown I was excited and relieved to be able to put all my efforts into mothering. I would miss my classmates for sure—thirty-one of us who had spent pretty much every weekday together for two years in a rich and enlightening environment—it was a wonderful time in my life and although I was sad for it to end I had something even better to look forward to. My heart was in my home with my three boys and I was thrilled to be able to be there with them full-time.

Years later when Eric finished his graduate degree I wasn’t melancholy in the slightest. I was in awe that we had actually survived, grateful for the generosity of Microsoft who had footed the bill 100%, and so happy that we had successfully worked together to accomplish something important to both of us. I was also very much looking forward to having my hubby at home with our family a lot more often.

With David's impending graduation I am struggling to find the silver lining. There is nothing really obvious for me to look forward to. I am so sad to think that soon our family will not be together as much, I am sad to think that we will not be as involved in our son’s life,  and I am sad that our kids will not have their brother around. I am sad when I realize that this is just the first of six high school graduations and I question whether I will make it through. I feel sad and I feel angry and the tears seem to always be right at the surface. I think that I am grieving. I am grieving our family life as we know it . . . a rapid-fire of activities as of late have unwittingly catapulted me from denial to anger on Kubler-Ross’s model of the five stages of grief. My time with my children is swiftly slipping away from me and I feel angry that there is nothing I can do about it. I have this animated image in my head of a man hanging off a cliff by a rope when suddenly he realizes that the rope has been yanked from him and he is suspended in mid-air. Once he realizes what has happened he starts scrambling like crazy for the rope. That is how I feel about my kids growing up—I am scrambling to hold onto their childhood and youth and I feel helpless, and even a little panicked. It really does feel like a blink of an eye and, all of a sudden, my little boy has become a hairy-legged man who can vote.

There is a part of me that understands that David will be JUST FINE—that he doesn’t really need me anymore and maybe that is another thing that I am grieving—my identity as a mom—my need to be needed. It feels vulnerable and uncomfortable and I am scrambling to find my new place. The thing is, I don’t want a new place—I LOVED my old place. The one where I kissed ow-ies, nagged about piano practice, helped with homework, and motivated with a sticker chart.

My more rational self realizes that I am being selfish—that I need to share our incredible young man with the world. He has things to do and people to serve  . . . but my eyes well up and my throat tightens and I get that ugly cry face every time I think of it. His graduation is the beginning of the constant change that will be happening to this little family of ours—and it is a slippery slope, I’m afraid. So I am struggling to see the silver lining . .  .  I know it must be there—maybe I am just refusing to see it. Maybe I’m just not ready yet. At any rate,  I hope I am able to reach a cheerful acceptance before David is forced to run away from me as fast as he can, screaming, arms flailing, because his emotional-wreck-of-a-mother is driving him absolutely crazy.

I love this guy and our family will not be the same when he leaves us.



Thelma said...

Oh Janet! You are breaking my heart. In a few short years I will be right there with you. You will have to show me how it's done. My mom told me she cried and mourned for weeks when we graduated...especially Marianne and Ammon and none of us had any idea. David probably doesn't realize the extent of your anguish. Probably it's just as well...

lifeatthewhitehouse said...

Janet, you are such an amazing mother and I completely adore you! David is such a great kid, and a lot of the credit goes to yours and Eric's fine parenting skills! HE is going to be fine, and YOU ARE TOO! My dad once told me that letting go of us kids is the hardest thing he has ever done, but at the same time one of the most rewarding, seeing what we have made of ourselves. Just because it will never be the same again, doesn't mean it won't be great. It will be a brand new exciting adventure for your family!

mom said...

Janet, There are so many moms that have went,going or will someday go through what you are experiencing right now. You have been able to express your feelings so well, unlike so many of us could never do. That is a great blessing. Although it is the end of this chapter remember there is even a greater one just beginning. I love you so much. All is well baby girl. mom

Susie said...

janet you are amazing mother and wife. Your kids are so lucky to have you. It is a scary time with so many unknowns, but just think of all the amazing things ahead. I'm already feeling what your feeling and I'm a year ahead of myself. I wish I could stop time as I 'm going to be a reck when Trevor graduates. I look up to you and so glad I have you to follow or lean on. Thanks for being such a great friend to me!