Until a few years ago, I fancied myself a free-spirit, a go-with-the-flow, up-for-anything adventurer. The more spontaneous, the better. Change meant excitement. Then one morning after two nights in a row of no sleep, I realized that the feeling of panic and uncertainty probably had something to with my youngest starting kindergarten.
A few years later, the same thing. Not the no sleep thing. This time it was in the middle of the day. I'm on deadline and suddenly I was paralyzed with fear. "Did I unplug the iron? Did I pick up dad's medicine? Did I sign Jackson's field trip permission slip?" This time, that feeling was probably due to the fact that my oldest brought home registration forms for high school.
During the 2014-2015 school year, it started happening on a regular basis. Each morning I had to mentally prepare to be the passenger for the ride to school while my oldest sat behind the wheel. I did this with positive self-talk. At first, I decided to borrow a few lines from Bill Murray's character in "What about Bob?"
"I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful... I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful... I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful..."
As time went on, I had to get more specific.
"He's not going to hit Mr. Haynes' mailbox."
"We won't die in a fiery crash."
"You won't scream, 'DON'T PANIC' if another vehicle passes, it starts to rain, or when he turns the radio on."
I was certain nothing would scare me as much as being the passenger while he drove. That theory was shot to hell when he no longer needed a parent to sit shotgun. When he got a car and job, I realized that the whole "sleepless nights" thing isn't reserved for the infant/toddler stage of parenting.
Before 1999 I knew for sure I wouldn't be one of "those parents." You know the ones who cry during the preschool musical even though their kid is sitting instead of standing and picking his nose instead of singing. The annoying ones who get melancholy before each birthday, new school year, ending school year, school dance, sporting event, etc. Instead I would approach parenting with the same free-spirit, a go-with-the-flow, up-for-anything adventure attitude that had served me so well as a pre-parent adult.
Instead of sobbing about how fast time flies, I would celebrate each new stage of my child's growing independence. It should be noted that I also knew for sure that I would, one, experience a natural childbirth; two, breastfeed for two years; three, use cloth diapers and; four, would NEVER allow my kids to watch television before the age of five. Essentially before 1999, I was an idiot who read way too many baby books.
Last week, the little boy who woke up happy and smiling each morning as a baby and peed in a display toilet at a hardware store when he was potty training, officially became a high school senior. He's independent and talented and kind. He's also messy and moody and funny. He calls this "balance." I don't panic as much anymore. It never served me well. Even if I had the power to stop time, I wouldn't. Parental growing pains stink. Just like those from childhood, they are disruptive and painful. But with a little time and reassurance from other parents, the pain passes and you grow a little bit more. This prepares you for the next growth spurt.