By Susan Keats, Contributor & Seize-the-Day Propagandist
My new next door neighbor has 2 little kids. When we moved into this house years ago, I also had two little kids, and in the very house where my new neighbor lives there lived 3 teenage girls. I would look at my tiny kids and then at the big girls next door and find it very hard to imagine that my girls would ever be as big, independent and accomplished as the girls next door.
Now, I look at the tiny kids next door and wonder if my kids were ever that small. I watch the sweet hugs and kisses they give their mom and I feel wistful for those days. Sometimes I watch their mom putting suntan lotion on their little faces. With a plate of peanut butter and jelly in front of them, they hardly notice what she is up to. Ahhh. I remember that trick. That’s a good one.
I can’t shake the feeling of the new ushering out the old. Soon after we moved into this house, the old neighbors sent their girls to college and then moved out. Now that my kids are the teens, the feeling of being replaced is made stronger still by the surprising twist that our new neighbor’s youngest child shares the same beautiful and unusual name that my oldest has. Lilah.
Their Lilah is 2. My Lilah is going to college. Little Lilah has moved in and big Lilah is moving out. See what I mean? Hard to shake the feeling…
So people are asking me now, how does it feel for you to have a child going off to college? I have two ways to answer this question.
“Oh, I’m going to miss her terribly. I know that the day we drive her to school, and we leave her there, I’ll be a sobbing mess all the way home. I know she is ready to go, but I can’t imagine the house without her. I wonder how long it will take before I get used to going to bed at night without thinking, wait, where is she? She’s not home. It is going to be strange. I’m probably ready, but this is going to be hard for me.”
If Lilah has overheard these comments, because I didn’t realize she had been listening, this is what happens next:
“Mom, I’m soooo out of here. I can’t wait to go. You won’t be able to tell me what to do, you won’t be making sure I’m in bed at a certain time, you won’t be there asking if I’ve done my homework. I can’t wait to just do whatever I want to do. You won’t just show up and visit without telling me first, will you?”
If my daughter is in the room and I know she is listening to how I will answer the question, I will answer like this:
“Oh, I’m ready for her to go. Not that I won’t miss her terribly, because I know I will. But she is old enough now and ready to be on her own. I think it will be good for her to spread her wings, discover new interests, make new friends. and be away from her younger sister for a while. We’ll miss her, but she’s ready to go. Plus, my house will be so much cleaner with only 3 of us here. So, I suppose I feel good about it.”
When she hears me say this, this is what I get:
“I’m the CLEAN one!” she’ll remind me. Then hugs. Lots of delicious, beautiful, I’m-going-to-miss-you-mom hugs.
See, I still know a few tricks of the trade.