I’m feeling desperation creeping over me. It’s the same feeling I had before my third child was born. It’s as if a window of opportunity is closing and, when it does, something (or someone) will be missing from my life.
My oldest son will be 16 in a few weeks, and I already feel him slipping away. Lately his busy schedule doesn’t often leave room for afternoon field trips to the latest exhibit opening, or weekend road trips with the family. Now that he’s in high school, taking him out of school for adventures is harder. When my second oldest enters high school next year, things will only get worse.
My husband rolls his eyes at me. “How can you miss someone who’s right here?” he says. “Live in the present, and try not to worry about things you can’t change!” He points out that, even after our oldest leaves the nest, we still have two other sons to travel with.
But it’s not the same. I’m the mama bird. I’m happiest when all my little chicks are together, under my wing. I want our flock to fly together.
They say 18 summers is all you have to vacation with your kids before they’re gone. But it’s a lie.
If you’re lucky, you might get 13 or 14 before sports or other activities become the priority. And since that clock starts ticking when the oldest child is born, the youngest child gets even fewer family vacations. As the baby in my family, I always think about the youngest.
I love hanging out with my boys. As my mom used to say, “they’re good company.” And they’re funny. Their off-handed comments can keep me chuckling for days. Once we were driving past a Food Lion grocery store, and my oldest started to roar like a lion. The others quickly joined in. I asked from the front seat, “What are you doing?” My son replied, “There’s a Food Lion.” The other son countered, “Oh. I thought we were randomly roaring.” It still makes me smile.
I love our inside jokes: We know all the dialogue from The Incredibles and Madagascar 2, and recite our favorite lines frequently. I love that their iPod includes Irish songs from my aunt’s old CDs, and enjoy joining in on the chorus of “Whiskey on a Sunday” as we drive to church (thank goodness it’s a short trip, as we only know the chorus).
Now that they’re older, I love to see them take charge. “You know, mom, that fort we just passed is the only 17th Century fort still in existence in the United States.” Those words led to one of our favorite field trips, to St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marco.
I love how, even as teenagers, they still want to go apple picking each fall. On a recent field trip, after finally taking their eyes off their electronics, they were incredulous– almost wounded– to discover that we were not at “OUR” apple house. “What do you mean we’re trying something new? Why?!”
I love how they’ve introduced me to Edgar Allen Poe beyond “The Raven.” I love how they don’t understand (any more than I do) when their social studies teacher says that many of her students don’t like history. How could you not like history?
In my heart, I know that we still have time. The window of opportunity hasn’t closed yet, but the opening is getting smaller and smaller. There’s still so much to do. So many places we haven’t been yet. This is probably the year where I’ll have to stop waiting for everyone and just go with whoever is available.
I’m thinking about expanding the blog beyond Atlanta. To do that, I’m going to have to travel more. And I do love to travel. When we’re on a field trip, I feel more present, and less distracted by the minutiae of the everyday world.
But, at the same time, I don’t want to miss anything– or anyone– at home when I’m gone. I’d much rather have all my baby birds with me. But I fear those days will be gone before we know it.
Trust me, you don’t have 18 summers to travel with your family. Don’t waste a single minute…