My oldest, Alexx, graduated from high school in May and my youngest, Seth, started first grade last week. There's also pickle in the middle Joel, who is in 6th grade.
Having no kids at home during the day for the first time since I became a stay-at-home parent 10 years ago is . . . amazing. Tears? No. Cheers? You bet! Can I get a wahooooo?!
I haven't had this kind of free time since I was a teenager. Literally. And I'm getting some typical comments from some friends and acquaintances when the topic comes up. "You're so lucky!" "It must be nice," or "You have no idea what you have."
Um, I know exactly what I have and appreciate it accordingly. Yes, it is nice. And I wouldn't say it has anything to do with luck. I'd say I've totally earned it.
I've got one foot on the flip-side, baby! I've done the diapers, potty-training, can't-leave-the-house-at-naptime, fits in the grocery, too-tired-for-sex, can-hardly-go-anywhere-alone, can-hardly-go-anywhere-with-my-husband years. Since 1991.
When someone looks at my days longingly, I often would like to say I've put in time. And hard time it's been (and continues to be). Even with normal parenting, getting a child to 18 is a gut-wrenching, sleep-losing, mind-boggling, frustrating, sometimes head-splitting experience. When you've got kids with neurological deficits that's just icing on the insanity-inducing cake.
I've spent the better part of my parenting years dealing with ADD, ADHD, autism, and a mood disorder along with your run-of-the-mill strong-willed boy thing. It's been . . . bumpy. And it's not anywhere near over.
I've played tutor, homeschooler, occupational therapist, speech therapist, behavioral therapist, developmental therapist. I've had countless meetings with countless teachers and counselors. I've had therapists in my home many days per week, and I've spent many hours driving kids to therapists. There have been meds - meds that didn't work, meds that did bad things, meds that did work; research for supplements, tracking their progress (or lack thereof); research for help, techniques, doctors, schools. And I'm not done yet. Not by a longshot.
I have been working. Just not getting paid for it - at least not with money.
Of course, it has also been (and will continue to be) an amazing, humbling, beautiful, heart-throbbing, inexplicably sensational experience as well. It has given me endless fodder to write about. It has made me who I am today. It has brought me closer to God and deepened my relationship with him. It has made me even more off-balance than I already was. It has shown me that I am stronger than I thought was possible. It has shown me who really cares about me and my family and who I can count on.
So now I take a breath. To ponder. To rejuvenate. To thank God that after 18 years, I get a break each day for me - to figure out exactly who that is after all this time and where it is that I'm supposed to be going from here.
photo by McKenna