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Posts Tagged ‘adulthood’

nestI read this blog post thanks to a friend sharing it on Facebook, and I had too many ideas to share in a comment, so I’m writing my own post with my takes on the idea. Liane Kupferberg Carter wrote “For Some Moms, the Nest May Never Be Empty.

I wrote last year that my second daughter, who has Down syndrome, turned 18, and it was a different experience than when my oldest daughter did. She’s now 19, and she completed high school this June. That change and others of this year have been more impactful than her just turning 18. This year, she’s in a new class setting that’s at our local community college, but that’s still run by our county school district, as was her high school class. She is still learning life skills, but the class is working even more toward the students being able to move about in society on their own and work as much in ways they are able to and will enjoy. She carries around a small purse with a little money and her state I.D. card. She got a bus pass and her own library card (which I just hadn’t done with her yet myself). She’s talking more about socializing. Or maybe I’m picking up on it more. With her having “graduated” from high school, having her be able to be “out there” in the world in ways that work for her seems more imminent. I’m thinking more about finding ways for her to get out there and socialize with her peers. I’m thinking about the possibilities of her immediate and slightly more distant future, whereas before I was just putting that on the back burner in my mind, “putting a pin in it,” because there’s just so much else for me to think about RIGHT NOW (I mean, having three kids still at home, plus a “grown” daughter and now a grandson — yay!!! — is just a ton of work anyway. A woman can only do so much).

My husband has kind of set in his head that she will just live with us forever, so we will never be empty-nesters, just as Carter wrote. I’ve always had in my head that she certainly could move out to different kinds of settings that she may enjoy more than just staying with her parents, at least off and on. I still think that. She’s pretty social and capable.

At the same time, my nest continues to feel different. My oldest moved out two years ago when she got married, which really changed the dynamics in our home. We have four daughters, and it’s astounding how the dynamics shifted when just the oldest one moved out. For one, I really mourned when that oldest got married. It took me months to come to grips with it. I missed her so much, and having her be married and “belong” to someone else made it different than just going off to college. For another thing, I just didn’t like the way the remaining three interacted, compared with how it was when my oldest was still at home. They still bicker more than when she was here (as one example), and it’s been 2-plus years.

I’m acutely aware of the differences between me and my friends, especially the ones I follow on social media. They have similar age gaps in their families, at least at the beginning (there’s two years between the first two, but then a four-year gap after I had Marissa — I just wasn’t ready for another infant too soon because she still felt like an infant and toddler for a longer time than the first had — and then a five-year gap between the last two because it took three long years to get our adopted girl), and while I see their oldest out and doing various fun “new-adult” things like my first, then I see their second and third children out doing those things, too, and I feel like my situation has stalled. Sure, it’s comparing, and you know what they say about that, but it’s just always there. I see it. I feel it. I feel “other.”

I still have plenty of parenting time in me: I have a sophomore and a fifth-grader. From experience, I know the remaining time at home is going to fly with my sophomore, who really keeps me hopping. Then she’ll fly on out of the nest on to all kinds of great things. She’s an achiever, like I was. And the 10-year-old, well, 8 years still seems like a long time.

So the nest is still full-ish. But I have enough taste of the birds starting to fly out that I can feel those changes. I can feel the things that aren’t changing. I also worry a bit about things I’m not doing, which certainly isn’t different from any parent, no matter their child’s situation. I have just recently watched one episode of “Born This Way,” which follows some young-adult people with Down syndrome, and it stirred up all kinds of feelings of sadness, guilt, wistfulness, worry, etc. I was happy for the ways those young adults are just being “normal” young people. I felt guilt for not doing more to get my daughter “out there” more like that. In a way, I don’t want to have that to compare my situation to, because it’s almost harder emotionally for me to compare with people who are essentially more in my situation than others I know. It sets a standard I don’t know I can meet. I mean, I’m sure it’s meant in part to give me hope for a good life for my daughter, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I compare negatively.

I certainly know I’m not ready to deal more with my daughter’s dating future (which is probably a whole other post on its own). It’s hard enough to deal with certain simpler issues with her when she acts like an 8-year-old in many respects, let alone the complex world of dating.

I guess that’s where I put a pin in a few items still, work on some that I’d pinned earlier, and know that I can do this, one or two topics and needs at a time. And whether she eventually flies out of the nest permanently or occasionally, we’ll be (mostly) ready for it when we amble up to that bridge that needs crossing.

 

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Dear oldest daughter,

So. Here we are, you with only one semester left of high school. I think this one semester has given me more grief than it has you. For years, I’ve vowed that I would not, would NOT, have specific expectations for you that were based more on my own experiences than on what should be your own. But this last month has certainly tested that vow. First, I was concerned about your unacceptably low grades in one admittedly very difficult class. Then the deadlines came and went for priority admissions to several universities you were interested in, and you hadn’t completed half of what needed to be done. Last was this past week: that challenging class ended with a very low grade, despite my (unsuccessful) efforts to reach the teacher earlier in the semester to ask what you could be doing to make it better. Yep, I admit I ended up coming home on that last day of school after trying to talk to the teacher and your counselor and collapsing into a puddle on my bedroom floor. Of course, it had more to do with all the other things I’ve been doing for you and the rest of my children, but that was the topper.

So I’ve succeeded pretty well in just letting you live your own life, with support and some guidance from me, without me choosing things for you (pretty much) or imposing my own will or interests on your plans. But now that it’s crunch time, it’s been very hard.

Marce, Cathy and baby BI think back to the day I gave birth to you, my first child, and how absolutely at a loss I was for knowing what to do next. I’d successfully navigated a pregnancy, but holding you in my arms left me gaping into a future that I had no idea how to handle. I barely knew what to do with a baby. In photos holding you, I can just see the look in my eyes of “what now?” Luckily, your dad was much more adept with handling baby stuff: changing diapers, swaddling, clipping tiny but sharp little fingernails that had scratched up your delicate face before birth. At least you took to breast-feeding pretty well; I could feed you.

I’ve become much more skilled at taking care of baby and kid stuff over the past 17 1/2 years, and I diapered and fed and toilet-trained three others after you with aplomb. Now, though, I’m feeling that same feeling I haven’t felt in so many years: “what now?” How do I let you loose on the world? How do I balance not taking over details (I would have just been on top of those priority applications, no question, when I was younger; I was a very focused and driven high school student) with giving some gentle guidance and continuing support? As a young woman who’s about to be a legal adult, you have to make your own mistakes and learn from them the way you need to. But as your parent, it’s my job to help you navigate your way, maybe minimize the number of those mistakes a bit, even tweak natural consequences a tad when I can.

Because this is transition time. I’ve always wanted my kids to grow up working hard and being confident and independent, much like my parents did for me. (My mom says it was tough, but there’s no question my sister and brother and I were independent. Rueful chuckle.) I’ve never wanted to step in and take over, to not let you carry much of your own life loads, because then you’d be in shock when you were forced to do that later in life. But it does kill me to see you bloody your knees too badly.

So if someone were to take a photo of me standing next to you right now, I suspect the look in my eyes is going to be that deer-in-the-headlights look again. “What do I do with this fledgling adult?” I have to let you fly more outside the nest, but you’re getting scraped up a bit much lately and I feel it keenly.

So forgive me for my freak-out moments; be patient as I try to navigate a new time in my life of parenting. Try to come to me for help before things get out of control so I can really help. But that’s a lesson I’m still learning too (ask for help; say no; learn your limits), so I guess it’s just the start for you.

We’ll do this together, and we’ll come through with flying colors. In the meantime, though, the colors might be a little muddled.

Love, your adoring and dedicated mom

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