The Almost "Empty Nest" Reflections: Thoughts on the End of an Era

By, Lisa Sparks

It's the start of prom season, graduations, and tearful goodbyes.  A friend of mine, Lisa Sparks, wrote this in March, and yet feels so appropriate for this time of year.  It's such a deep reflection on how fast time seems to elude us and she does such a great job of reminding us to cherish those special moments we have with our children.  Enjoy this read as a reminder to remain in the present moment. 

Well, it is the end of March. “Senior Season,” or “#SNRSZN” as the kids call it, is well underway. I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Yet that light feels like it is on a train hurdling toward me at record speed and I should probably jump out of its way. The four of us recently attended the bar mitzvah of our dear friends’ son, and it got me feeling really sentimental. He is the baby of my “OG” mommy group, and this milestone truly felt like a finale to my kids’ childhoods. With Maddie leaving for college in the fall, and Max not far behind, everything seems to be moving towards an end. I know, I know, college is an amazing new beginning, and believe me, I am beyond thrilled and excited for this next chapter in Maddie’s life. And soon after, in Max’s life. But boy, do I wish time could slow down a little bit.

When my kids were really young, we were part of a wonderful playgroup of moms and kids. We got together once or twice a week so the kids could play and the moms could hang. We went to many different playgrounds, the mall (Chick-Fil-A at the food court every Friday, it seemed), the zoo, and each other’s houses. Our weekends were filled with birthday parties, family get togethers, and adult-only dinners out on a regular basis. Life was good. Then elementary school happened, and our time with this playgroup slowly turned into time spent on homework, rec sports, school programs, the PTA…Some of those playgroup moms remained my closest girlfriends, but my circle expanded to include the moms of many of Maddie’s close school friends. Life was a little more hectic, but still so good. The years flew by. At their 5th grade graduations, I thought each kid was *so* big.

Time for middle school. More homework, projects (did anyone actually enjoy those Science Fair or Oral History projects?), traveling to games, girl drama, bar and bat mitzvah seasons…time had a way of marching quickly and again, at 8th grade graduation, I thought my blossoming high schoolers were really getting old. My mom friends were still mostly Maddie’s friends, though now my circle expanded to include some of Max’s friends’ moms as well. Life was still good, but busier than ever. When my kids were both in high school I really felt like a mom pro…I had two teenagers! These high school years have been fun, but so busy, so stressful, and oh so fast.

And now. Here we are, Maddie’s graduation is only about 2 months away. Seems like it was just yesterday that she was learning to walk. Life is still good, but also very different. I feel jaded, but lucky to have a strong circle of amazing friends who are on this same journey. I don’t think anyone really realizes what parenting older kids is like until they get to that point.

Everyone tells you to enjoy your kids while they are young because the years fly by so quickly. But when your kids are young, you just smile and nod. I don’t really want to go back to that time, but I should have appreciated it more. I mean, I adored all the good times, reminded myself that everything was just a stage (“this too shall pass” remains my mantra), dutifully noted everything in their very detailed and completed scrapbooks, but did I really stop to savor those loud little people and acknowledge my precious little time with them? I don’t think I did.

My life and my identity is focused on and wrapped up in my kids. I love them fiercely, and I love being their mom. Yes, I have a great job, wonderful friends and family, outside interests, and hobbies. But being Mom to Maddie and Max is what I know and do best. Well, maybe not best, but as well as I can possibly do it.  I know my kids will always need me, but not in remotely the same way as when they were young, or even now. My time as a day-to-day hands on, laundry-doing, rule-enforcing, carpool driving, food making mom of teens is careening to a halt.  All I will be left with are the memories, and the worries. And I am dreading that time. So for now, I am going to try my best to savor them more. Every damn day. Even when they are making me crazy. Because I don’t want to look back with any regrets.

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