I'm "A City Mom" and the author of two novels, Down at the Golden Coin and Wish Club. I live in Chicago with my husband, three kids, two cats and a dog. When I'm not being a mom or a writer, I fly 767's for a major airline.
"I just hope I enjoyed them enough when they were around."
An empty-nester friend of mine I work with said those words to me about six months ago and I swear I've thought about what he said almost every single day since. The last of his kids had just left for college and the way he said it, it made me wonder if I were truly enjoying my kids enough.
It's become a go-to phrase for me. I use it every time I feel really freaking overwhelmed, which is just about every morning from when the alarm clock goes off until, approximately, the time I end up back in bed at night. (Does anyone else out there feel like they get shot out of a cannon every single morning?) Or maybe, say, over a long holiday break when everyone is home, all day, every day. I use his words to get me through the times I stand at the bottom of the stairs to the basement wanting to cry at the mess that never seems to go away--the soda cans and granola bar wrappers, banana peels and video games, Legos and guitar amps and nunchucks and dust. And the times when there aren't enough hours in the day to buy groceries, go to the bank, cook dinner, help with homework and dole out the lunch money I didn't get at the bank. When the mouse that got away this week was a big one--I completely forgot to go to my own dentist appointment. Just plain forgot!
I use it to remind myself of what it will be like when they're out of the house completely and the place is quiet enough for me to write, or maybe to even think, which is a concept that goes a long way toward explaining the quality of my writing to date. I think about what my friend said, about the importance of enjoying our children while they're with us, because they really are only with us for such a short amount of time and wasn't it just yesterday they were babies? So I take deep breaths and try to enjoy the noise, the mayhem, the mess. Really. I do.
And it helps. Really. It does.
The kids are at their grandparents for a few days this week and I'm getting a little taste of that empty nest feeling. It's glorious. I'm soaking up the peace and solitude like a serenity-starved palm tree that's reached an oasis. You know, if palm trees could walk to an oasis or be, somehow, serenity-starved.
This regenerative peace and solitude is only wonderful because I know it will end soon. Tonight when all three of them come home with laundry, and crap they will pile on the countertops and stories from their trip they will fight to tell me, stepping on each others words in the process, I will go to that phrase again, but this time it will be easy. It's the times that it's not so easy that I must keep this promise to myself. I will endeavor to enjoy them enough while they're here.