I have not run out of time with my children.
My babies are a teen and a college student, so clearly they are not babies anymore. Technically, my oldest isn’t even a child anymore, even though she’ll always be my child, and she’ll always be a little bit my baby.
According to a lot of posts I’ve run across on social media, I’ve already burned through a big chunk of parenting real estate.
I’ve used up the 940 Saturdays between my first child’s birth and when she left for college.
I’ve had my turn at the 18 summers between the time when the first person to call me “mom” was born and when she was considered “grown.”
I guess I’m supposed to feel done, somehow. I guess I’m supposed to feel like something has ended or, at the very least, is ending.
But I don’t feel those things. All those weeks and summers and Saturdays, I didn’t feel like I was counting down to anything. I felt like I was counting up to something.
I didn’t feel like I was emptying anything out. I felt like I was filling something up.
I didn’t feel like I was using up anything. I felt like I was storing up something.
I didn’t feel like I was losing. I felt like I was gaining.
Gaining lifelong relationships. Gaining memories I’ll cherish forever. Gaining trust that goes both ways. Gaining time spent together by choice.
Gaining joy, pride, and encouragement given and received.
Gaining friends who knows me better than almost anyone else, but like and love me anyway.
Gaining confidantes I can trust with my heart.
Gaining gratitude for the past and hope for the future.
All those years ago, I didn’t have babies just to have babies. I had them to bring new lives into my world and into the world at large—and to make both those worlds better.
Which they have.
For many years, it was my job to teach and correct and train and support and guide and provide. But the salary for all that teaching, correcting, training, supporting, guiding, and providing is still paying dividends. In some ways, I feel like I just cashed my mom paycheck and am starting to enjoy spending it.
The first 18 years of our children’s lives are only the first act of parenting. If more time on this earth is granted to them and to us, there are second and third and maybe even fourth acts still to come. There are weeks and summers and Saturdays still to accumulate.
I know that in a lot of ways, I have to let my adults-in-the-making go.
I know I have to let our relationships shift, as they should.
I know I have to step back and step away some.
But for all the looking back I’m doing these days, I’m looking ahead, too.
For all the shifting I’m doing, I’m standing firm, too.
For all the letting go I’m doing, I’m holding on to so much more.
This piece originally appeared at Guilty Chocoholic Mama, published with permission.