Life and Transitions...
Well folks, we’ve done it! It is officially SUMMERTIME and I can’t be more excited! I love the Gershwin refrain “It’s summertime, and the living is easy”. I mean, I wish it was easy, but the sun is out and that makes up for a whole host of problematic issues such as kids, money, housing, and food. (or at least I can pretend I don’t have to cook, clean, pay bills or work while I’m daydreaming on the hammock sipping a gin and tonic, right? :)
We dispensed of another Beers boy this past weekend as #4 graduated from High School, one short summer away from moving out and beginning his life anew as a University student. We are, of course, duly proud of this magnificent young man, but I will be honest when I say I am ready for the transition—I know the phase that naturally occurs is a gift from God but I sure am ready to move on from this stage of parent/child relationship.
|Look how utterly thrilled he looks.....|
I liken this 18 year old attitude to the 9 month attitude of a pregnant woman: At 2 months, it’s so fresh and new you are thrilled and excited, tired and vomity, but overjoyed. At 5 months you get glowy and want to bask in this beauty of life growing inside of you. At 7 months, you begin to realize that babies get bigger than you originally thought and the idea of how they come out starts to shroud you like a cloud of doom - staying put is ok for now. But, by 9 months, by golly, no matter how it has to happen, just get the giant out of the belly because we are all miserable!
So too, teenagers. Newborns are …. New, fresh, and sweet. You may be exhausted, but you are (mostly) happy exhausted. Toddlers are challenging, but funny, fun, and entertaining. Adolescents begin to make you think of the teen years so the cloud of doom begins to descend—best keep them at 9 years old. But by they time they graduate or get to be between 17-18 it’s all “hey, did you need help packing? I’ll hold the door open for you!”
People ask me often about being an ‘empty nester’ and I’m sure there will be quiet evening or two a few years from now that I might become a bit weepy but I’ve dedicated a great portion of my existence for love of them and I know I did (am doing) my very best. Our family never really wrapped our lives around what the kids are doing and I feel that sometimes makes a huge difference.
Home was base for all things and all things based on home. We ran the gamut of t-ball, sports, and extra-curricular activities but all in the context of how it affected home life. When/if it began to damage the pocketbook or family harmony, it went, no matter what it was. That held true from baseball to National Honor Society, I am non-discriminatory when it comes to ‘things’. When one puts Christ at the center of the household and all things work around Him and proper Worship in the Mass, all else comes and goes in light of Eternity.
When our oldest left and broke the only family model we knew, it was pretty tough. We had a small adjustment period, but it ended up to be quite delightful as we were able to see personality traits and dynamics shift with one less kid in the lineup. Younger boys got a chance to strut their stuff and be the big brother as we went down the line and kids left. It also made for much more fun family vacation time with everyone re-gathering and holiday celebrations held higher in joy.
Now that there will be only one left at home, it will be like bringing a new baby home all over again: What do we do with this (not so) little one? I foresee a time of staring at each other, us three, wondering what to do or say. With #5, that should last all of 2 minutes and he will be cracking a joke or sleeping in everyone’s bed night after night like Goldilocks; only he will take pictures of himself doing so and sending them to his brothers just because he can. I will have to be on guard with this one as he will milk being the baby for all it’s worth, attempting to get spoiled and special privileges - which may work to an extent only because I’m getting soft in my elder years - although I’m sure not as soft as he hopes. I’m still mom.
With no outward offense to those who truly struggled with empty nesting (or even postpartum because I never really suffered from that, either) I think doing it gradually with a lot of kids is one of the greatest gifts as a Catholic family. I don’t know any different because this is how my family was created, but I actually am enjoying them growing up and making a life of their own. I can see, if I had only one or two, how it could have been incredibly different emotionally, and honestly one of the reasons I use when people express their desire to limit their childbearing to a small family.
I had a great conversation with an eye doctor (no less!) a year or so ago. He was excited to hear that we had two boys in the seminary and we talked about kids, families, the world, and life. He made a comment that I won’t forget: “I think God brings children into the world in the middle of chaos for a reason, to show us we have no control, and isn’t that the greatest thing? Isn’t that amazing? I love that He shows us hope in the middle of chaos by little babies. Isn’t that what hope is all about?” It’s a first world hubris that says babies are not always seen as a light for this world, that they would be a drain, or that they take too much of our resources. That life itself is expendable is disgustingly evil and a scourge on our society. I hear people say “I don’t know if I want to have kids and bring them into this crazy world” and I respond with “well, how do you think this crazy world will get any better if you don’t have any kids to change it?”
We are the change. We are the times. We are the culture that will move society when we stand for life, for hope, for children, for the Church. I’m so excited to have my boys grow up and out to be a force in society, to live a Catholic life and carry on the joy throughout the centuries. Godspeed all you graduates!!