If you have not yet experienced the celebration that is high school graduation these days, it is a far cry from what my 1989 graduation was like. Based on my memory, the graduation celebration season extended about 2 weeks - the first week consisted of practicing for and receiving my diploma, and the second week was at the beach with the other newly-minted grads. We came back with a smattering of piercings and dead dog tired from not sleeping for seven days. And then it was over. We went on to our summer jobs, lazy days by the pool, and quietly slipped into the next phase of our lives without a whole lot of fuss.
If you have experienced the celebration that is high school graduation these days, then you know that makin’ a fuss extends from the moment they go back to school as a senior until the moment you walk away from their dorm room. Of course there are the hugging of necks pictures that have to be posted, but after that the celebration rug gets pulled out from under all The Mamas who have dedicated themselves to the graduation season.
I took my time to grieve and to be a bit melodramatic about this monumental milestone in my own life. I even got sick and coughed and took to my bed for a few days for good measure. You know, just to be sure it was properly recognized, a few hundred times, how flat worn out I am from executing a nearly perfect year of sending my girl off on her own. As I recovered and allowed myself to be nursed back to health maybe a few days longer than I actually needed, I tried to think of another time in my life I felt this slap worn out in all ways.
I spent many wonderful years teaching middle school students to love learning, to build electrical circuits, and to launch rockets built from scratch. That kept me busy. Kids of all ages are my people, so for many years I happily kept busy camping for three nights every year with them and calling out numbers for Bingo Night. I enthusiastically volunteered at the annual spring festival, baking sweets for the Bake Sale, working the game booths, wrapping arms in fake casts, and painting sweaty faces. I managed the lower schoolers backstage for the day long talent show, collected tickets, settled line disputes for the rides, and worked the dunking booth. All in the same day.
My muscles ached the next day after running around the campus from one volunteer slot to the other and from the tension of facing my icy-water fate delivered at the hands of sugar-hyped adolescents. I would go home that night, NEVER cook dinner, and sleep it all off until next year. Life resumed as normal the next morning.
Looking back now, the past year was like Big Saturday but for 8 months, not 8 hours, and the next day is not feeling normal in any way.
There was zero way to prepare myself for what life would be like without her....
One teenager grunts in return to my coffee-induced exuberance at daybreak.
One set of items to account for before school.
One set of reminders shouted out from the front porch as One car backs out of the driveway
One bed to make and One set of clothes to wash.
One vegetable at dinner that needs to be made to ensure it is eaten.
One set of HW to manage.
One argument over the use of technology.
One kiss on One forehead at night.
My boy was born less than 2 years after my girl, and life blew up with busy-ness. I remember saying at the time I didn’t know how easy it was with one toddler, not two. 18 years later - wow - it IS easier with just one at home! Plus at 17 he can drive AND wipe his own butt...
Somewhere along the line, probably the second day after my daughter was born, it became clear that a Busy Mama is seen as a Loving Mama, a Good Mama. I like to think that I have been able to maintain a healthy level of busy-ness both for me and for my two kids. I had enough going on myself to never really cross the line into the territory of “That Mama” (most days). But I have been conditioned to live with a sustained, slightly frantic level of busy-ness that has ebbed and flowed over the years. Even when one aspect of life got easier (I remember that FIRST summer when both babies could swim in the shallow end of the pool without me, and I could stretch out with People and read more than 3 words in one sitting) something else snuck in to level it all out again (diving board shenanigans - bye bye People - it was fun while it lasted).
I am determined to embrace my slower mental and physical pace of life. I don’t know if it is PTSD or muscle memory, but it turns out that it is easier said than done. There are ALOT of temptations for some daughter-centered busy-ness . A lot. Enough that I think I will save all of that for Phase III.
Hotty Toddy and Go Rebs!