Isn't that a dramatic title? The End of an Era... what era, you might ask? Well, it's one of my eras, in fact. Younger, my youngest son, finished 5th grade a week ago. I refuse to say graduate. 5th Grade Graduation. That is absurd. The only event more ridiculous is graduation from pre-school. Let's save the word graduate for something bigger.
And yet, and yet. The end of 5th grade has been kind of huge for me. For one thing, I'm now done at the elementary school where I have volunteered and spent time for the last 10 years. That is over. And the other big part of this is that I'm no longer a Mother of Young Children. That has been my title, my role, - is identity too important a word here? - for a really, really long time.
At the airport, I would hear "Parents of young children, you may board now," and I would think, "That's me." At church, "There will be a meeting for parents of young children on Wednesday at 6:00," and I would write that down because, of course, I needed to be at that meeting as the agenda being discussed concerned my young children.
And that is now done. Over.
Gah, so melancholic.
It's just that with Older, whenever he finished some stage of life, we were on to the next adventure! And I wasn't really leaving that first stage because I still had Younger, and, perhaps, could navigate that phase even better for him.
My husband led me last week to a blog post written by Brene Brown called The Midlife Unraveling. I could paraphrase, but I'm going to just quote Brene (no, I don't know her, but my friend, Amy is her neighbor, so I feel a kinship) instead:
As it turns out, I was right about one thing – to call what happens at midlife “a crisis” is bullshit. A crisis is an intense, short-lived, acute, easily identifiable, and defining event that can be controlled and managed.
Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling.
By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. You can’t cure the midlife unraveling with control any more than the acquisitions, accomplishments, and alpha-parenting of our thirties cured our deep longing for permission to slow down and be imperfect.
That I am no longer a Mother of Young Children is most certainly not a crisis. That I'm having serious second thoughts about my work and am more than a little anxious that I won't be able to get a different kind of job because who, who, I ask you, is sitting in their office right now, staring out the window from the comfort of their swivel chair, pondering that "what this company really needs is a preschool teacher" - I'm fairly certain the answer is NO ONE! is closer to crisis, but not really. No, I think I'm just in the full Unravel. And if I read Sheryl Sandberg's book, I would know how to Lean Into It...
I haven't read the book, but I think I get leaning into it. Like Unraveling, I cannot stop this rolling of time. I don't even want to, at least not Younger's roll - he's so excited and ready to grow older. I don't want to be that parent who tries to keep her children young beyond their expiration date, like that mom I once heard threatening her son, "If you don't believe in Santa Claus, you are getting underwear for Christmas! I mean it!" And so I do rejoice with Younger in the new exploits coming his way. Even as I miss his small self so much it physically hurts.
As for my own rolling and unraveling. Well, I would like to roll and unravel backwards, request a do-over, please or some such. But that's not going to be granted to me either. This is a harder lean. I mean, Younger is supposed to grow older, I'm meant to go on to the next phase. All well and good, but I thought I would be...more together...have a better idea of just what the heck I'm doing with my life.
And that's the problem, isn't it? That I don't know what to do? Certainly, my parenting is about to move into a much less certain level; I never worried about parenting a 6 year old. Parenting middle and high schoolers? Jesus, take the wheel!
My pastor said something a few weeks ago that I've been mulling over. He said, "When you don't know what to do, do what you know until you know what to do." So, that's my leaning in for right now.
And this is me and Younger at his 5th Grade Ceremony. Note the crazy balloons behind us...