So now that ds17 is at yeshiva and ds15 is in Israel, how am I feeling?
It’s a time of a lot of transition for everyone. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of shifts happening this year in our family; even things like sleeping arrangements (for four kids!) have changed in the last three days! Much more significant will be the different social shifts within the family, the way the middles view themselves as they move into the roles of the oldest, and how we all use our time together and as individuals.
I really, really enjoy my older kids, not only as my children, but as friends. They are very enjoyable to spend time with and talk to. I particularly love our Friday nights together – we all enjoy singing together and that’s something that is very special to me during both Shabbos meals when we don’t have guests (guests never get to experience the best stuff!). Dd15 and I both sing on the exact same key – this is sometimes something we end up laughing about, when we both abruptly stop at the same time if a key is too high or low for us. Ds17 has a very pleasant voice and carries a tune well, and has some tunes that he taught us that have become part of our usual repetoire. Even when everyone else is tired and ready to end the meal, the three of us could go on singing for quite a while!
After our Friday night meal, dh and dd14 go to sleep right afterward, the middles fall asleep on the couch or read (the littles usually fall asleep in the middle of the meal), and ds17, dd15 and I very often end up shmoozing about all kinds of things – life issues, thoughts and feelings – it’s a time that I treasure and I think they appreciate it as well. There’s something about the late hour, the feeling of closeness following the Shabbos meal, the privacy since everyone isn’t there, and that none of us have anywhere else we need to be that engenders the perfect environment for meaningful discussions and honest sharing. That’s something that I’ll really miss.
And of course, physically I won’t have their help. So I’m already shifting to how I ran the house a few years ago, when all of the kids were younger and I needed to be more actively involved in a hands-on way with everything. That’s going to be a change, too. When we sit down for dinner, it seems like we’re missing people, when we go out I keep having to check that everyone is there since it feels like I’m missing someone, and without the oldest two kids at home, it feels like suddenly the house is filled with little kids.
The reality of any transition, no matter how wonderful, is that there’s always something you lose with whatever you gain. As such, I do have some sadness as the stage of having all of my children at home has come to an end after all of these years. However, the overwhelming emotion I’m feeling is extreme gratitude to have raised such amazing children, and appreciation for the new opportunities that are opening up for me with my other kids who are still home.
They are both so, so happy where they are right now. Ds17 loves everything about his yeshiva – he’s really, really ready for all aspects of it – social, intellectual, academic. It’s going to be an incredible time for him. And dd15 – oh, my goodness! Her reason for choosing this particular program was she wanted to travel to Israel, to learn the language, to meet new people and have new experiences – and she’s already experiencing all of that! In addition to the girls in her program who come from all over the US and even the world – she has a roommate from Canada and one from Germany, and I believe there is also a girl from Spain and one from Australia – she is also meeting the Israeli girls in the regular program there. Where else would she get to meet so many people from all these different backgrounds and interact with them on a regular basis? I can’t even express how she’s overflowing with excitement and happiness and so much loving all the new people and experiences. I spent a lot of time weighing this option and went ahead despite some hesitations based on my confidence in dd, and it was really, really a good choice.
A friend recently warned me, in a kind of flat tone, that once they leave, it’s never the same again. I thought it was a negative way to spin it – we can’t keep holding on to our kids so that we stay in our comfort zone as parents. Of course they have to experience new things, and of course things will change as they grow. As parents we grow through all of this, too! By gradually letting go of our children at each stage of increased independence, I believe it makes each coming stage of adulthood easier.
There’s a saying that there are two critical things we give our children: roots and wings. As a mother, I’m grateful that we’ve been able to give them really strong roots, and now it’s beautiful to watch them stretch their wings and soar.