This week our youngest child finished school, Year 12 (after 13 years of school). We have now said goodbye to the whole school experience. Next year, for the first time since 1991, there will be no school run to make. We only had two children, so for us it was a relatively streamlined event. I have friends with 5 or 6 children (I do know how many children they individually have, five friends have 5 children each, one has 6 children), and just imagine how long it will take them to get over the school stage!!!
We decided to stop at two when I had a revelation about crossing the road. One day I had a 6y.o. and a 3 y.o. in a pram, and my blind 85 y.o. grandmother and we had to cross a busy road ... and I didn't have enough hands to hold them all. It seemed to me that was a sign from the universe. I had always thought I would want maybe 3 kids (I am the eldest of 4), and pictured I would have another one in my late thirties, but after that revelation I suddenly re-examined it. I had LOVED playgroup, being pregnant and breastfeeding but when I thought about it I wasn't sure I had the energy to do it again. Getting a little one in and out of the car seat, struggling with a pram, having a kid with colic, having another one with diabolical reflux and special needs - these things I was pretty sure I didn't want to do again. And I have never regretted the decision.
I am passionate about the importance of parenting, and I adore our children, who are now 21 and 18. Being their mother is the best, most rewarding thing I have ever done and I can't imagine my life without them. Even on the tough days, I am who I am because of them. I have also been lucky that their Dad has been equally committed to being a parent, and has dug holes on the beach, made campfires, cooked and cleaned, scored at basketball and tee-ball, made breakfast for years and been a great provider too.
So it is interesting, happy and nostalgic to find ourselves at the stage of being the parents of two adult children. They are each individuals, marching to the beat of their own drummer in very differing ways, both fairly non-conformist, not especially close, but supportive of each other when it counts. This is my new favourite photo by the way.
This week the older one, Patrick, sat in the audience (jiggling admittedly) as he watched his sister Stephanie graduate from High School, and he made all the right noises, and wrote a lovely positive message on her card. It was a nice completion of the education circle, including my two graduations in the last 2 years. His university graduation is a ways off, but it will come one day, and we'll be there again, supporting him and bursting with pride I'm sure. Steff has a work trial this week starting tomorrow which will hopefully lead to her first job, and we will ALL be employed. Hallelujah.
Our parenting experiences have been quite wide ranging, so that was part of my decision to become a midwife. I knew that parenting mattered, and that parenting really mattered with a child with special needs, and I had experienced such rewards from every aspect of being a parent to each of our two. I wanted to share that joy, love and reward with others, even through the tough times with disability and bereavement, because I know that each life has meaning whether for 4 minutes, 4 months, or 4 decades. It is so worth investing in that relationship with your kids. Every day I understand it better and better, as I help new parents discover their newborns, or as I see the damage done by fractured parenting and multigenerational dysfunction and disconnectedness. Its very sad to move from one room to another and see the contrasts in attitude. Every day, as midwives, we see the value of love in supporting families through transitional states of labour, newborn parenting, lactation and acts of faith in each other as human beings.
What a transition our own little family has made. We've come a long way, and we seem to be heading for/ ready for the next bit.
Did anyone say empty nest?