August can be a welcome change of pace from other months, a retreat from the world of routine and a chance to restore. Our family of five returned to a beach we’ve loved for nearly two decades, and at one point, we began batting about ideas for new places to visit together.
Almost immediately, this struck me as off and I couldn’t shake it. Having two college graduates and one about to begin college, shouldn’t my husband and I begin making plans for two, not five? Wasn’t it time to focus on ourselves as a couple again?
I’ve been talking (and writing) a lot lately about letting go of our children. But at that moment, it felt like nothing more than lip service. Deep down, I knew I’d been hanging on for dear life, and had been for a while. I loved our life and didn’t want anything to change. But hadn’t it already? Hadn’t we (ever so slowly) begun cutting the emotional and financial strings to our kids?
Soon after our conversation, I expressed some of my unease to my husband. It’s time we let them go, I said. And I really meant it.
I felt as if I were saying this for the first time. It wasn’t easy – as obvious as it seems. But it felt honest, and okay.
Six years ago when my son left for college, I adjusted to life with four at home; a year later we downsized to three when my older daughter left, and I adjusted to that too. And in less than a week, our third (and last) will leave for college. I don’t know how this will feel – some combination of wonderful and awful probably. I imagine that it’ll feel partly like the life my husband and I had before children. Yet I know it’s impossible to go backward when so much of the joy and worry in our lives is due to them.
As a young adult myself, I remember taking only one family vacation with my parents post-college. After that, it was a day or two here and there, and then eventually, longer stays once I married and brought along our growing family. My parents also moved to a new town and house after I graduated, which at the time felt a little weird, but their lives were changing too. It was good to realize they were all right without us, and doing new things.
In our case, reaching this milestone doesn’t have to spell the end of time away for the five of us (our youngest especially wants family vacations to continue because it’s something her older siblings got naturally). But vacations will undoubtedly be different, much of it spent at large extended family gatherings and celebrations, ones I hope will eventually include their own families.
In countless ways over the years, we’ve shown our kids we are invested in their futures. Why not show them now how invested we are in ours?
Beth Burrell is a journalist who worked in daily newspaper reporting before winding her way to parent newsletter and freelance writing. Currently, she helps produce the weekly parent e-newsletter for Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood, Pa, She lives in Merion, Pa. with her husband and three (sometimes fewer) children.
Read more of Beth’s posts at http://firstdaypress.org/tag/beth-burrell
Image: Dandelion wish by John Liu via Flickr