Babies, accolades and learning to cook

My thoughts as we prepare for our last baby to graduate High School have been strange and mixed.  I’ve not felt an exact affinity with what I’ve seen and heard other moms of graduating kids express.  It’s made me wonder if I’m way off, or just really strange and wounded lately…or maybe at a place where I’m more honest than I once was.  It is certainly the end of an era for me as a mom, and that has been hard – but it’s hardly a shock.  I’ve been dealing with my kids needing me less and less for many years now, and having our three so close in age means that I’ve been dealing with consistently dwindling numbers at the dinner table for over four years now.  What has surprised me is how unfinished the work feels.  I’d thought I’d feel all accomplished – ta-da, three useful members of society have been produced, raised and are ready for the world, I’ve done my job…maybe take some bows and acknowledge the applause of the world.  Yet as a mom of young adults I know they’re still growing, still learning, still figuring out so much – it’s not that they’re not useful members, they’ve just not fully arrived yet, and their life schedule is their own and that’s awesome and healthy.  And I’ve realized that so much of what I hear and see other parents sometimes take credit for – that’s not me or my parenting that have produced any of that – that’s all purely within those kids.  I may have seen and nurtured certain skills and abilities, given space to explore and attempt new things – but none of those ideas were mine, none of those choices really made by me.  I felt this the most as we struggled with kids making choices we’d not have made, or going through hard stuff we’d never dealt with before, especially in seeing those not-so-perfect personality traits no one wants to take credit for – similar but different to bad habits in my own life, things I’d never expect my own parents to take the blame for.  It felt hypocritical to take the credit for good traits while not taking the blame for the bad.  Maybe other parents out there have perfect children, or they themselves are perfect.  Goodness knows I have much to brag about in my own kids, I could go on and on about this last baby to leave the nest – the health struggles, the strength, the straight A’s – but those accomplishments aren’t mine, they’re Danny’s.  I feel most proud that we’ve survived this era with love for each other and our sense of humor intact.  Ask me in ten years if our parenting skills were good or even worth emulating, I might have a better clue by then.  For now, I feel like I know less than when we began this adventure.  I do know that God placed our kids in our family for a reason, that I was the mom they needed, for some strange reason.  I love them all to the best of my ability, and that’s not about to stop because they’re not eating breakfast in our house anymore or leaving dirty dishes in my sink…might even be a bit easier to love them without that, actually.  There are two more, about to be three, functioning adults on this planet who once began life in my womb, I am proud of that – but I love them way too much to want any more credit than that, and know them way too well to want any of the blame either.  All the congratulations, all the accolades go to them.  And we’re all just trying to learn how to feed ourselves – me to cook for less than five, Danny to cook at all.