School hadn’t even started yet when the paperwork began flowing in with lists of events for the Seniors to attend and deadlines for turning in sizes for cap & gown and decisions about which photo for the yearbook had to be made. The words blurred as they seemed to pick up speed on the page. Had this day really arrived so soon?
My girl, our last child, is a Senior in high school and for all the joy and excitement that comes with this season, I was also having some ambivilance as a parent, some sadness as well.
When all five of our kids were young I dreamt of this day and secretly feared it might never come! But now it was here and it was asking me to step into a transition I wasn’t ready for.
I decided this counselor needed a therapy session herself so I sat on the couch in my office and asked myself some questions. I’ll let you in on my session as I play the part of both therapist and client, which by the way, I recommend as a tool you can use yourself.
Therapist: What’s hard about where you are right now?
Me: Well, when the other kids hit this spot it was exciting. I could check a box (You know how I love checking boxes!). It meant I had completed “momming” him and he was gonna take the baton from me and run ahead.
I’d walk back to the starting line and there’d be another kid waiting for me to run with him. “One down, four to go” I’d say and start the race again.
Now, when I see the finish line, my heart skips a little because as I look back, there’s nobody waiting for me at the starting line. My race with her is almost over. I don’t know what life is gonna feel like with no more runners.
Therapist: How does your girl feel about this race?
Me: I think she’s excited naturally, but she’s also a little freaked out about grabbing the baton from me.
We play this see-saw game in which neither of us ever know who is gonna wake up in the morning; the kid who is afraid to grab the baton or the woman who is impatient for me to let it go.
I think this period is hard on both of us now.
Therapist: When you look to graduation what fears do you have around it?
Me: Oh, that I haven’t finished teaching her about important things like choosing a life partner, or being true to herself, or allowing herself to make mistakes in the growing…and I’m afraid I haven’t even thought of something she’ll need when she’s out there on her own.
Therapist: So your fear is really around wanting to finish this last year of the race well?
Me: Yes… I guess so. Then there’s a more selfish piece that’s about my identity. Who am I gonna be when there’s no kid who needs me to check on them or cook meals or plan vacations with them in mind?
That’s a big piece of me that’s been active since I was twenty-one years old. Where’s that part gonna go?
Will I still feel like Me?
Therapist: It’s OK to grieve the loss of that piece of yourself. It has been very fulfilling to you. Transitions are a time of grieving the old so that the new can come.
You’ve grieved transitions before. When the first one went off to kindergarten and stepped onto that yellow bus. When they stopped wanting you to kiss their booboos when they got hurt. When they chose to spend time with friends instead of you. When they got their driver’s license and no longer needed your Mom-cab.
You’ve done this before. You handled it. You can do this again and do it well. Some tears are quite appropriate.
The kids just need you in different ways now.
Me: What will she need me for?
Therapist: She needs you for emotional support and words of encouragement. She’ll need you to tell her it’s gonna be OK when she fails an exam or changes her major a couple times. She needs you to be a mirror for her growth as a woman and all the good things she brings to the world, even when she’s not perfect.
She needs to know that there will always be a place for her at the table, hugs when she’s sad and joy when she succeeds and finds what makes her feel significant in life.
Your job of Momming her is not over. It just looks different now. The best is yet to be. You’re going to get to watch all the seeds you planted in her sprout in their beatiful glory!
Me: I guess you’re right. I just needed a reframe on it; from something that’s ending to something that’s beginning. You’re not bad at this counseling thing. Thanks.
Therapist: You’re welcome. So I’ll probably see you again graduation weekend?
Me: Oh yeah, for sure! See ya then.