I have about six million things I’ve been meaning to update y’all on—most of them wedding-related, because HOOBOY planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart or sober, and I happen to be both—but they will have to wait just a wee bit longer. (Those tidbits will be worth the wait, I think. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me “ONLY YOU, MIR!”… well, I’d have a whole lot of nickels. Not enough to pay for the wedding, you understand, but a LOT.)
Nope, today is not for that, because today I have finally gathered my thoughts (as much as they are ever gathered, anyway) on the end of an era. I don’t write here very often, anymore, and I certainly don’t talk about my kids as much as I used to, but I know there are still a few folks here from the Way Back Times who remember when this whole thing started. I’ve been writing here for almost twenty years. My kids were preschoolers when this site was born. In the same way that you don’t notice your own child growing taller, because you see them every day, much of what has happened over the last two decades seems gradual and normal, because I was watching it, and IN IT, the whole time. (Some of it felt like it took forever, but we’re not going to talk about that right now. Tralala!) And then every now and then, I have one of those weird flashes of WHOA WAIT WHAT because I blinked and suddenly everything changed.
This is all preamble to saying that both of my kids have been adults for a while, now. I know this. Intellectually, this is not a surprise. But. BUT. Last week we hit a milestone that was a loooooong time coming.
Four years ago last week, Chickadee graduated from college. Four years and one day after her graduation, Monkey graduated.
Chickadee did high school the regular way, went off to one college, powered through, and graduated three and a half years after she finished high school. We are super proud of her.
Monkey skipped a grade before high school, then ended up dual-enrolling locally their senior year, and then went off to the college they thought was right, imploded, came home, got help, went to their sister’s college, imploded, came home, got help, said they never wanted to go to college, got a minimum-wage job, just worked for a while, started taking college courses online at a third school while still working, one class at a time, still insisting that college wasn’t really for them. And then COVID happened. So they stopped working and upped their online course load a little. Then a little more. Then they went back to the first college, the one they’d attended while in high school, and graduated six and a half years after they finished high school. We are super proud of them.
I knew, of course, that my kids are wildly different from one another. And I knew that my first-born had her share of struggles in early adolescence, and thus was already on a much more even keel when college came around. I knew that my youngest was young to be starting college—younger than most freshmen, and not as mature as their peers, to boot—and I was still ready to believe them when they insisted they were ready. (Narrator voiceover: They were not ready.)
More often than not, over the last six and a half years, I haven’t really known where this ship was headed. Monkey was Doing The Thing, but they still seemed unsure. Anxious. Driven to do what they saw as SHOULD rather than figuring out what they truly WANTed. No matter how many conversations we had about how there are no bad choices, only “right for right now” choices (which can easily be re-chosen if they stop being right), Monkey seemed more like a soldier on a death march than a young adult enjoying their present and picturing their future.
About eighteen months ago, that started changing. They started changing. They got into the meat of their major, finally. Once they hit those higher level classes that required the kind of problem solving they love, and classmates who were similarly fueled, the fiercely curious human I’d missed for so long returned. But they were also figuring out all sorts of other things, about life and who they are and what they really, truly want, and that maybe—just maybe!—everything was unfolding just as it should.
They look different, now. They carry themselves differently. They have a quiet confidence that bears only a trace resemblance to the “I’m the smartest one here” bravado of their childhood. They are still my sweet Monkey: kind, and goofy, and deeply nerdy, and full of random trivia they are going to share (whether you want to hear it or not), always walking into the room announcing “Here I am!” or “I am approaching!” and then immediately kneeling down to have an in-depth conversation with one of the dogs (“Hello, ma’am, you are looking VERY tall today. Who said you could be so tall? That’s probably illegal. I’m going to have to write you a ticket.”), always thanking me or Otto after the dinners we eat together.
I didn’t really care about them going to college. I mean; okay, I did, but in the way that someone born and bred and steeped in the notion that education is the way to get what you want cares about it. Specifically, college was not my concern for them. My concern was for them to feel like they were in charge of their own life, and like they were capable and useful and important.
There were a lot of years in there where I don’t think they felt any of those things. And that just… broke my heart. Over and over.
But they figured it out. They stopped just Doing The Thing and started Enjoying The Thing. They started being comfortable in their own skin. They started planning for the future—one they want, one they can picture, one that they are making possible through their choices and hard work.
Chickadee and Sunny came home last week and we did a bunch of wedding stuff (the wedding is now LESS THAN A MONTH OUT ZOMG), yes, but we also just hung out, all of us together, and ate cake and played Cards Against Humanity, and went to commencement and cheered like lunatics and smothered Monkey in love. Otto took approximately eight billion photos and I love them all.
Because all the people I love best were here together.
Because all the people I love best are leading lives that feed them. Not perfect lives, or trouble-free lives, but good lives.
Because I am completely, totally, DISGUSTINGLY proud of the adults my children have become. I don’t claim any credit—I tried my best, understand, but 1) I often failed and 2) at the end of the day, it’s on them—but I sure do feel lucky.
I have friends (and if you’re one of them, YES, MORE THAN ONE) who are currently in that awful young adult limbo where their kid can’t seem to get out of their own way. As hard as it is to go through, I think to watch it as the person who most often provided help/fixing for so many years and not be able to DO ANYTHING is sheer agony. I keep telling those friends: People told me I had to give it time, and I wanted those people to go jump in a lake. Time stands still when your child is struggling. But they were right, and here we are, having emerged from the end of a loooong and dark tunnel, blinking into the sunlight, not even sure if it was all a dream. If you’re in the hard place with your kid right now, hang on. Keep going. Trust they will find their way. The hard-won victories are the sweetest.
Congratulations, Monkey. You Did The Thing! But even better: You found yourself. I am so, SO proud of you, kiddo.