The Down Side of Raising Kids You Like

Everything was all well and good until I was taking down the Christmas decorations yesterday.

I have been in a blissful, protective state of denial. Denial, which gets an undeserved bad rap, allows us to move ahead in the face of certain pain or imminent failure and go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Without denial, no one would get up in the morning. Or is that hope? Maybe I’m confusing denial with hope. Whatever.

Okay, so I may have been denying the certainty that life changes. It’s a protective skill. I’m an expert. I believe my children are still little and will not be graduating from high school in the next nano second when I hang what are now 15-year-old hand made Christmas ornaments on an over-loaded Christmas tree, and shop for pajamas to open on Christmas Eve and purchase what seems to be hundreds of presents for the 12 family members staying for Christmas while baking bread and sweet potatoes and ham and mailing family photo Christmas cards that were as funny as I could make them.

It’s when the celebration has passed and it’s time to put away the precious childhood ornaments, that the truth shows up in shocking, uncontrollable places to point out that hands have grown bigger and daughters have become full-fledged human beings with lives to lead away from our blissful, protected home.

I really was doing quite well until I took a hand print Christmas paper plate lace trimmed ornament off of the tree and the poem fell off the back. I glued it back on and sobbing unattractively for 2 hours, waited while it dried. In the 200 times I read it before tearing myself away to sloppily hug the child/now laughing teenager who made it, I lived through every sweet moment and every mistake I’ve made as a mother and a human being.

So here, in my awakened terror, I wait for the day she isn’t home when I hang it up and take it down again. There is no fairness in parenting. We blindly take these itsy-bitsy people into our homes and while we unconsciously care for them we learn to love them and become used to their noise and progress and friends and laughter and kisses. And then off they go, leaving us as they found us; blindly going about our lives, but now with a near adult shaped hole right in the middle of our path and taking the sweetness we have become accustomed to with them.

The down side of raising children you like…they leave. I just hope they come back or at least stop by.

My wise brother-in-law gave the best gift to his wife on the day his last daughter left for college. He cleaned the entire house, lit hundreds of candles and had The Grateful Dead playing when his wife walked through the door at the end of the day (well…this is the band he and his wife like). He handed her a glass of wine and said “So, where were we, when we were so rudely interrupted?” They danced for hours.

The possibility of dancing with my husband, uninterrupted for hours, keeps my head above the floor.

And my mind busy enough to survive the certainty that life changes.

Today my hand is small,
but how quickly I will grow.
Just how big and tall
is for only God to know.

So look upon this plaque

hanging on your wall,
and memories will come back
of me when I was small.

Merry Christmas

I love you!