It’s the moment when they take the bed out of the room that you know it’s all over.

A few years back, my youngest kid went to college. And I was a nervous wreck about it all. As proud as I was that he was “all grown up,” I hated that those childhood years were behind him. Behind me. Me. Yes, it’s me everyone should be thinking about. The mother.

When he left for school, his room stayed pretty much the same. The closet still held his yearbooks, basketball trophies, and the clothes he’d outgrown years ago were still squeezed between his Varsity jacket and lone black suit. The room was still a bedroom — with a bed, dresser, desk. It was still his bedroom. And that made the leaving part so much easier.

And now, in just two days, that bed will be packed into a U-Haul and carted off to Alabama. Five hours away.

When I tell people my son is moving away, I get a lot of “Wow, that’s exciting…what an adventure.” What I want them to say is this: “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s moving so far away.” Yea, again, it’s all about me, right? And yes, I’m excited for him. I am. As the youngest of four, he wants to fly. Be on his own. Start his own life. I get it. He’s got this. But I’m also nervous. And, yes, I’m sad. I’m really just kind of sad that it’s really happening.

I wrote in his journal last night. The journal I’d been writing in since he was a toddler. (Sorry, I guess I should have warned you from the get-go that this is going to be a sappy post. I will understand if you stop reading here — especially if you’re a mother. I hear ya.) So, yes, he’ll be taking that journal with him when he leaves. That last entry was a tough one. Went through an entire roll of toilet paper as I filled the pages with all kinds of motherly advice:

  1. “Change your sheets every week.”
  2. “Use baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge.”
  3. “Buy a fire extinguisher.”
  4. “Brush your teeth.”
  5. “Call your mother. Once a week, at least.”
  6. “Text as often as you like, but call.”

I scribbled and scribbled, madly gathering life’s questions and making sure I’ve told him everything he needed to know. Though I know I’ve been preparing him for this moment his entire life, why does it feel like I’ve missed something?

He’ll figure it out, I know. On his own. It’s how it’s supposed to be–even if it does suck for me, the mother.

My own mother arrives in town for a visit on Wednesday. How serendipitous is that, eh? As I sit here thinking of my son being so far away from me, it does make me think of how I just up and left all those years ago. I moved to an entirely different country without giving a single thought of how my mother felt about it. I never even asked her what she thought of the idea. I was a “grown up” capable of making my own life decisions. I didn’t really consider the fact that other people would be impacted by my decision to move away.

Yea, feeling a little selfish now.

[Insert full circle moment here]

As I reflect on my own decision to move away from home–as sad as I know it probably made my mother feel–I know I would do it all over again. It was my journey to take and no one was going to talk me out of it. I guess my mother knew that. She understood it. Her journey to independence began when she left home at the mere 18 years old. She packed her bags and moved across the country, from Newfoundland to Ontario. I’m sure her mother, my grandmother, was sad to see her go — and yet excited that she was beginning a new life.

So my son has his own journey to take, now. It’s his turn and the greatest gift I could give him is to let go and place my trust in him. I’m trying. I really am.

I will be fine (in case you wondered, since it’s really all about me). Just not today.

Repeat after me, “It’s a beginning, not an end. It’s a beginning, not an end.”

This week is going to serve up some life lesson shit. I can just feel it.

This article was originally published on Gwen’s blog, Eat Drinkn Play. Featured image via.

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I had just settled myself into our empty nest when our youngest son, Dylan, decided to ditch dorm living and move back home. It had been a rough entry to University for him — with pain and back surgery overshadowing his first year of freedom — so while I knew that his return would ruffle some of our routines, I was secretly breathing a sigh of relief to have my youngest child near me again. The kid had barely unpacked his suitcase and I was back into full-time mom mode.

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“Have you eaten anything today?”

“Did you study?”

“What time did you go to sleep? You need more sleep.”

“When are you going to get a haircut?”

“Didn’t you wear that yesterday?”

“Where ya going?”

“Who’s going to be there?”

“Drive safe.”

“Drive safe.”

“Drive safe.”

And so on.

Dylan humors me, most of the time. Thankfully he’s well past the eye-rolling stage of teenage-hood, and a tad more understanding of my necessary mothering (I think?). He knows I can’t help myself. He knows I’m just looking out for him. And I’m sure he knows that one day he will be free from my constant reminders to brush his teeth or pick up his clothes.

What he doesn’t know–what none of my children could possibly know — is that it’s not the act of letting go that I struggle with, it’s the being let go of that does me in. And the letting go usually starts with the “I got this.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” “I got this, Mom.”

“Do you want me to go shopping for jeans with you?” “Mom, I got this.”

“Did you sign up for classes yet? You know…” “I got this.”

And they do. My children are making decisions about their future. They are managing adult relationships and negotiating car loans. They are decorating their homes, picking out furniture and learning new skills. And half of these children of mine are taking care of babies! They’ve clearly got this. Making this shift from first string mother, always in the game — to one that sits on the bench, suited up and waiting to be called — is not easy.

Sitting on the bench, I don’t have any input into what’s going on in the game. The plays are made without my approval. As skilled as I am in my position, the kids have drafted other (life) players on their team now and so I wait. Don’t want contribute to “too many men on the field” or have a penalty flag thrown at me for encroachment, so I wait to be called. Ok, yes, I’m a football fan, and the more I think about it, the more similarities I see between the game of football and motherhood. Our careers typically last less than 20 years. And even when we’re good for a few more years, we’re tired. As many times as we fall down, we know we have to get up and keep playing. We have to stay conditioned, both physically and mentally, because we never know where the next “hit” is coming from. And as hard as we try, we don’t always win.

There are disappointments. And there are celebrations. And, we hope, lots of touchdowns and happy dances in the end zone. And just when we think we’ve figured out “our” game, one of the plays change and we are forced to adjust. Accepting the fact that my youngest child has benched me is getting easier. It helps to have him close, where I can watch from the sidelines. From the bench, I’ve learned that he will give his last $20 to a homeless man. That he takes his new role as uncle to his two adorable nieces so seriously. I’ve learned that family is the most important thing to him. And I’ve learned that he wants to learn sign language and loves algebra (what!?).

During these past few months, I’ve learned that he’s got this. And I couldn’t be prouder.

This post was originally featured on Gwen Morrison’s blog, eat drink ‘n play. Featured image via.

There’s this shift happening in my family dynamic…no matter how hard I try to deny it. Sadly, I am no longer the parent of babies. I have BIG kids! Which means I’m wading into unfamiliar parenting waters just trying to keep from going under. Having all three of my kids home full-time for the summer is a brutal reminder of how things have changed. Is it just me, or is parenting getting harder the older they get?

When they were babies I was much more confident in my mom-ness. If they cried I knew it was probably one of three things they needed: to eat, to sleep, or to snuggle. Then as toddlers they were so happy with whatever I gave them to do. Everything was new and exciting for them. I was Mom Of The Year with every little craft project I put in front of them. But all of a sudden I have an 8 year old son who is smarter than I am (literally). Sometimes it’s like he needs to use his brain every minute of every hour or he gets naughty. There’s also my 6 year old son who is the quintessential middle child, constantly vying for attention. Using humor that’s sometimes appropriate, most of the time not. And my final hold out is our 3 year old daughter who keeps insisting she’s a big girl now and wants to do everything herself. I’m not going to say I won’t let her get any older…I’m just saying they better have my straight jacket ready the day she heads off to kindergarten. All three of my kids were just born like, a week ago.

I realize now that I have been grossly misinformed all these years. I was under the impression that it would only get easier once I was done schlepping around a diaper bag, once they were potty trained, once they were sleeping through the night, once they could tell me exactly what they need, and once they could entertain themselves for hours on end. Ha! Silly, delusional me. Easier? No. A completely different ball game? Absolutely. Here are some of my biggest parenting challenges now that my babies are no more:

Big Kids = Big Mouths: 

Now that they’re older, my kids not only tell me what they need…they tell me everything they’re thinking. Just the other day my 6 year old said he’d rather go to day care than be home with me. (It felt like a dagger to my soul!!!)  My 8 year old feels it’s his lot in life to engage me in a point-counterpoint “discussion” at least 593 times a day. I liked it better when they had a vocabulary of 20 words or less.

Being ‘Mom’s Mini-Van and Appointment Scheduling Service’:

I absolutely can’t stand to have an over-crowded schedule. Unfortunately these days it seems like all I do is try and sort out who has which practice, doctor appointment, dentist appointment, project due, or field trip on which day. And I only have two in elementary school! I realize I’m just beginning to climb this mountain. We used to have relaxing days at home to enjoy each other’s company. Now it seems like we’re trying to squeeze in dinner around soccer camp and swim lessons. Something tells me it’s going to be a long 15 years of this.

Behaving In Public…Will They or Won’t They: 

When your kids are little you get this pass. If they’re having a meltdown at the store some other mom will look at you sympathetically and say, “Oh, I remember when mine were that age…” and you feel normal. But suddenly when they’re big kids and they act up it’s a direct reflection of your parenting. For the most part, my kids are well behaved and make me proud. But there are days…like the other day we had a real, non-family member, babysitter for the first time ever. One of my children (who shall remain nameless) decided it was a perfect time be as obnoxious and hyper as possible. I felt like the worst mom in the history of moms as I apologized to her and begged her to come back again. Thankfully she has agreed to give us another chance.

It’s become clear to me that parenting big kids is just a series of trial and errors, with a few successes thrown in here and there to help us keep our sanity. The truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing…they’ll be lucky if they make it to adulthood without needing therapy. Wish us all luck!

This post was originally featured on Marie’s blog, Make Your Own Damn Dinner.

My daughter stood on a stage, wearing fringe and sparkles and wailing in harmony with the other vocalists in the indie rock band. A friend from her high school days leaned over and whispered,

“What does it feel like to look at that on stage and know you gave birth to it?”

Weird was what it was. And yet, not weird. Because overlaid on the face accented with cat’s-eye eyeliner was the wide-eyed little girl, bobbing her head in time to rap music at an Easter celebration I had wandered into, the only white girl in a sea of head-bobbing dark-skinned children. The same girl, grown up.

And that made me think of an article I read about what it is that makes us “us” even as our bodies grow, even as we get a completely new suit of cells through the years.

The article asks what makes us “us” – and what does it take for us to stop? Is it mental illness? Is it amnesia? Is it death? What if you wake up one morning feeling not quite like yourself? Is your identity slipping, or is it an anomaly?

I believe we are all essentially ourselves during all our days alive, despite experiences and years. Not sure about after death, but I at least feel I have evidence of the living sameness.

My daughter is not just a rock singer, but also a nurse, and I can trace those twin desires to perform and to caretake all the way to the first days she showed a personality. I knew and fell in love with my husband the first time I met him and, though he has changed much through the years, the essential person I recognized during that long-ago lunch together, is consistent. And, whenever I enter a room of mostly strangers, the shy only child I was, swims to the adult surface.

Grown up but the same.

This post was originally featured on Helen’s blog, Mitternight Stilettos. Photo via.

Do you like pumpkins? (the correct answer is yes).

Do you like beer? (again, yes).

Then we have the perfect Halloween DIY for you.

Ok we’re not actually entirely sure this would work because a pumpkin is not technically a pressurized keg and your beer may end up flat…. but it’s guaranteed to look really cool!

SEE MORE: 37 Easy DIY No-Carve Pumpkin Ideas
No need to wield a giant knife, risking injury to yourself and others. These no-carve pumpkin ideas will help your pumpkins last longer, too!

SEE MORE: The White Witch Cocktail
Strong, spooky, and just a little bit sweet, this Humpday Cocktail is exactly what you need to de-stress on a fall afternoon (or morning, I’m not judging). Plus, this wicked concoction is low-carb so you can splurge on those Reese’s cups shaped like pumpkins (seriously, WHY are those so good?).

Every year when my kids go back to school, the feeling is bittersweet. I’m sad to see the lazy days of summer go and the relaxed attitude of the kids, but I do breathe a long sigh of relief (Ok, it’s more of a “Yippie!”) when I drop them off on their first day of school. As much as I cherish our carefree summers, by Labor Day I’m ready for them to go back.

But this year is different. Very different. It was the first year I didn’t drop off Mini-Me, because now she not only drives herself (omg), but has her own carpool (OMG). This has totally thrown off my mornings. I like driving her to school and then stopping by my favorite Starbucks. To make matters worse, it was the last time we would go school supply shopping together. We do some heavy bonding at Staples (have you seen those sparkly pens and folders?), so this is a really big deal.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this will be our last year of having a “child” living at home, because our “baby” is now a SENIOR! We’re going to be, dare I say it…empty-nesters?! I hear those two words and only one word comes to mind: OLD! I’ve got this sneaking feeling I’m going straight from Pampers to Depends, with only a stop for a facelift.

Funny, when they’re little you know you’re raising them to grow up and leave you, but it all seems so far away. It’s really hard to imagine them ever growing up enough, so they could leave. But they do. Did I really think I would be cutting their food and tying their shoes forever? Would I want to? Best not to ask that question. It took two years to get used to College-Boy living away, and now Mini-Me? Face it, even if you’re not old, when the babes are gone it’s a totally different stage of parenting. And it feels a little weird.

Of course, I’m so proud of her and excited for her future. But I’m sad that this whole year is about letting her go. And I have to let her go. It’s a good thing that we have a flurry of activities to keep us so busy that we can’t focus too much on her looming departure, like college applications, SAT prep, college counselor meetings and endless nagging (ours, not hers). The upside is this keeps us busy, the downside is it just creates more stress.

Applying to college is no picnic. There’s Early Decision, Early Action, Regular and Rolling. We’ve never been early to anything, so why start now? Too many decisions to make and so many to chose from. My generation never had to work this hard to get into college and most of us couldn’t even get accepted into the same college today.

I hope this school year goes by slowly, even though we can’t wait to find out where she’s “going.” Because before you know it, Mini-Me and I will be shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond with a college checklist as long as a standard dorm twin-xl sheet. At least we’ll be bonding.

How did you survive your child’s senior year?

This post was originally featured on Linda’s blog, Carpool Goddess.