When Taylor was born and her first Christmas came around I went out and got her a Baby’s First Christmas ornament from Hallmark. In fact, I think I got two. And most years afterwards, minus a few years here and there, after the holiday I would take the kids out and let them pick out an ornament. We have several Barbies (sidebar: I never liked the Barbie thing, but was over ridden by my in-laws. It was one of those battles I didn’t put up too much of a fight about but I recall it causing me angst. She grew up to be a big mouth feminist so parents: they watch you no matter what you let them play with . . .). We have Star Wars and Simpsons, Disney Characters, Nightmare before Christmas . . the list goes on. I’m not a big holiday person. I’m not a big Christmas person. In fact, I kind of loathe the holiday. But I love our family traditions, and we have several during that season. But my favorite, outside of decorating the cookies is getting out the ornaments. I love to watch the kids separate out their individual boxes, hang theirs. I like to watch them laugh about the ones they made in school, we try to remember which lucky spider belongs to who. (whom?) When Steve and I split, we split up our ornaments. He took his, I kept mine (my Oscar the Grouch being my favorite). He took the Doors and Alice Cooper. It’s kind of a thing. The ornaments.
The idea behind the ornaments for the kids is that when they are grown and move out on their own, they would have a minimum of 18 ornaments to start their own holidays with. A minimum of 18. Taylor has 23. Chase has 17. Harry 14.
Taylor graduates in May. After 5 years of working her ass off she will graduate from BSU with her RN. I anticipate in December of ’16, she might want those ornaments for her own tree. Or maybe she will want them this year, for her and Eddie in their apartment.
And Chase, he might want them for his place. Because he now has a place. He will have his 17 ornaments and he might want them for his own tree. Or maybe he will want to stay here Christmas eve with me, like we all have done for the last forever many years. But this year might be different. I just don’t know yet.
I’m not sure as parents, we are ever entirely prepared to let go. With Tay, it’s been a gradual process. A year at Hanover. Where she was far away, but she was at College! We were excited for her. Then she moved to BSU. And then she started staying with Eddie on breaks. And she sometimes stayed here but mostly was there. Then she eventually was just there when she came home but she’s in her 20’s. It felt gradual and natural.
This feels like chopping off a limb. It hurts. Its jarring and sudden and unexpected.
I remember Steve and I talking, long before we had kids, (like that whole year we dated and maybe that whole year were were married before we had kids) about how we would raise them, and what we wanted for them. As two dumb ass kids who took every hard path, we wanted to raise them to be smart, self sufficient, independent, critical thinking explorers. We wanted them to care about people, about the earth. About themselves. About others. We wanted to raise them to be fearless, but cautious. (is that a thing? we wanted it anyway)
I was hoping they would get the best of us. Minus our self destruction, minus our impetuousness. Our combined deep thinking, without the anxiety and depression being hyper aware of the depth and complexity of the universe and life itself can bring. Steves practical side, like the ability to pay bills on time, combined with a strong work ethic. My drive, independence, do it my own damn self attitude and unwavering passion to find beauty even when life is handing you a bowl of shit.
They all got a heavy dose of anxiety with a side helping of depression. It’s in their DNA and they got a hefty dose. But the are dealing with it in the right ways.
Taylor has worked both during school and in the summers to pay for all the expenses of her education that loans dont cover. Chase is working 35 hours a week on an organic farm and schooling online 30 hours a week. Harrison still likes me to bring him snacks in his room and by god I’m going to continue to do so.
When I was deep in the throws of a good 36 hour cry after Chase told me kindly and with tears that he was getting his own place, a good friend said to me “He wants to do it himself, he wants to get out there and make his place in the world. Who does that sound like H?”
I wish he had taken a different path. But we have known for a long time Chase’s path wasnt going to be college/job/family. He’s going to do it his way. He’s clean. He’s sober. He’s alive. He’s happy. And these are all things that we weren’t sure we would see in him at the age of 18. He’s had a hard road. And he pulled himself through the worst of things. Just like his sister, and he’s making his way. Just like she is making hers, only different. One can only hope Harrison will follow in both of their footsteps, one way or another.
I always say, however these three kids were placed with Steve and I, we got damn lucky. We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. Those kids have saved us both in multiple ways. I just hope we have given them enough back, to have an easier road. That’s all I think we really want for our kids, for them to be happy, and healthy and to not have to fight too damn hard to find that. I think they did get the best of us, and because of that, it takes them away to lead their lives. This is healthy, I understand. Logically, I do.
I’m still super sad.
I miss my kid. I miss my kids. I think I’ll go hug the one who now has to take ALL THE HUGS.
5 thoughts on “Letting go.”
Aww man, all the hugs from here to there. Now I feel my parents pain. I went to college and my brother left early, after his sophomore year at 15 to go to a HS on the Ball State campus. They didn’t get their ease into empty nesting.
Then there’s that hard place in your gut when your kid has a harder path than you want for them. Doing that right now. It sooooo hurts. I’m hoping for Chase’s outcome. Cross your fingers for me? You’re further down that path at the moment.
But wow. This hit me hard this morning. Sounds nuts, but thanks for that…
Heather, I love reading your work. You are able to take what so many feel and articulate it so well. It is a wonderful skill. I wonder what might happen if your photography (a tool of power in itself) found a way to be combined with your writing. Love, Dad
Heather, as a parent about 10 years ahead of you, I have been through so many of the things you are now. The good news is that the pain/sadness/joy/pride mix we sometimes feel as they grow up is because we love them so much. All we can do is to Love Harder and one day as they are at our stage of life they’ll do the same with their families.
Oh yes… giving them roots is so easy. Giving them wings is the grunt work.
It is sometimes easier when they are little and you can put them in timeout when you don’t like the choices they make, but they sound like good people. Hang in there.