When my girls were little, I would sometimes try to imagine what they would be like as adults. What would they look like? What would they be excited about doing? Would they still be best buddies? Would they still want to hang out with mom and dad? After a week on vacation with my mostly adult daughters, I can say that the reality is even better than I had once imagined.
Although now 21 and almost 19, they are in many ways very much like they were as little girls. Our older daughter, a college junior, is still laid back and easy going, happy to go along with what everyone else wants to do. Quietly assertive when she wanted to add a trip to In and Out Burger to our California adventures, she ultimately found delight wherever and whatever we happened upon. While she enjoyed our family time, she also relished her moments of solitude reading by the beach. Our quieter, more introspective child, her dad and I know that it often works better to spend time one on one with her in order to dig deep enough to find out what she is thinking. One night, her sister went to bed early and we jumped at the opportunity to have a late night cocktail with our big girl in order to hear her thoughts about the approaching end of her college career. It seems impossible that she will soon be out on her own, yet I have no qualms at all that she will be ready. An old soul, she taught me how to be a mom.
Our baby girl is either a delightful bundle of bubbling energy or she is in need of protein and possibly a nap, not unlike when she was 3. Since this has always been the case, the rest of the family can be very focused and creative when hunting for a piece of meat to revitalize our youngest member. “Feed her some meat, and then she’ll be sweet” was once again our family motto. 🙂 She is our comedian and keeps us laughing with her faces, her commentary and her antics. She is sensitive, loving and kind and the sticky glue that keeps us all connected. Whether watching her jumping in the surf along Coronado Island or smiling with delight on the cable cars in San Francisco, her love of life is contagious. She is the bravest person I know and she makes our family complete.
Both of the girls are intelligent, thoughtful, funny and opinionated. Although I don’t necessarily agree with every one of those opinions, I very much respect the fact that they are passionate and informed about the world in which they live and that they are confident enough to express an alternate view. I love that they care and think deeply about the issues with which their generation is faced. I never tire of hearing about the books they are reading or the things they are learning or the ways that they are changing. I remember being their age and being equally certain I would change the world. Sometimes, I am even a little jealous of their youthful perspective.
Although there are many similarities between my little girls and these vibrant young women they have become, certain things are decidedly different. They are both currently in love…with boys who are not their Daddy. Their faces light up when they are texting with them or when they are talking about them. Their names feature prominently in most of their stories and I am touched by how important it is to both of them that we approve of and like their young men. Because these two young men are important to our girls, they are important to us and we are careful to ask lots of questions and learn as much as we can about them, welcoming them into our lives and home as often as we can. And I pray for them every single day, just in case we keep them forever. While I hope it is several years away, I think I will really like having sons some day!
We got back from California late Saturday night and by early Sunday afternoon, after a flurry of laundry, both girls had happily left to return to their busy college lives. Their departure was bittersweet. Our house was once again quiet. And I was once again a little bit sad. I am grateful that I am far enough along in my empty nest journey to know that this sadness will soon pass as I once again adjust to our new normal routine. Plus, if I am completely honest, the quiet is sometimes sort of fabulous!
Today, I’m still a little bit sad, but feeling very grateful as I consider this parenting journey. As I look back on those little girls, I realize that THIS is what we worked so hard to achieve all those years. Two confident young women, thriving and growing and contributing in their corner of the world. Yes, they still love to be together. And yes, they still love hanging out with their parents…particularly when we are paying for nice hotels and fancy dinners out. 🙂 Our family is changing and even perhaps expanding, but we are still the same family we have always been. While I still miss them when they are gone, I am actually really enjoying this new stage of our family’s life.
So the message today? Parents still in the trenches, it is ALL worth it! All the tears, the heartache, the worry, the teething, potty training, tantrums, homework battles, eye rolling, slammed doors, feet stomping up the stairs, health scares, difficult diagnoses, soccer practices, basketball practices, team tryouts angst, cast list angst, boyfriend angst, mean girl angst, driving lessons, college applications….every single stinky, wonderful, hard and delightful part of it. Hold the line, keep praying, and know that you are doing an awesome job. You are a great parent, even on the hard days. And someday, they really will be grateful. I promise.