In 2005 my wife and I reconnected after originally meeting 13 years prior. In 2006 I proposed (and she said yes). In 2007 we got married. In 2008 Julianna was born. In 2009 Chloe was born. At the end of this week we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. 3.5 weeks after that Julianna will turn 14 and 3 weeks after that Chloe will turn 13.
The beginning was a whirlwind; a whirlwind that sped up for us, like it would for anyone, when our first child was born. So much happened in such a short period of time. There was not a whole lot of time to think about what to do. We just had to trust our instincts, put our seatbelts on, and enjoy the ride. Our parenting training wheels had barely been bolted on when baby number two was on the way.
We are in school vacation week right now. Last night Julianna went and had a sleepover with one of her closest summer camp friends. While there, the friend’s mother told them that they would be going on a surprise visit to New York City this week (yes, she cleared it with us first). Julianna is home with us tonight but we’re taking her back to the friend’s house tomorrow so she can go on this adventure. She’s so excited. While that was happening last night, Chloe and I went into Boston for the night to have a special getaway at a hotel. We got dinner delivered and watched a movie. We had a fairly deep conversation about what advice she should give to a friend who was texting her about his grandfather who was very sick in the hospital.
This afternoon, Chloe made arrangements to go to one of her friend’s house. I was instructed to pick her up at 9:00pm. She texted at 8:00 asking if I could pick her up at 9:30 instead. At 8:30 I got another text asking if she could sleep over at the friend’s house and could I pack a bag for her and bring it over.
The net result here: Julianna was away last night. Chloe is away tonight. Julianna will be away tomorrow night. The frenetic pace of their lives requires less and less of “me” every day. They have friends and hobbies and things they want to do.
When did I stop being one of the top priorities for them? This is not a pity party. I am not ”upset” that they are evolving. This is what I think I wanted to have happen. I’m just not sure I was, or anyone could ever be, ready for when it does happen.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on these past years. The catalyst hasn’t been that I can’t believe someone has been married to me for 15 years but rather that there’s a clear tide-change happening with the girls as they continue down Teenager Road. When we were new to parenting, with our training wheels on, I think it was all about creating an environment where our children could learn, grow, feel safe, have experiences, and ultimately turn into self-sufficient and independent human people. We ”learned” that we had a ton of control; almost all of it in fact. Now, we have much less control; at least it feels that way.
I used to participate in community theater as a tech person – think assistant director or stage manager – relax, I’m not getting on a stage. The process of putting the show together, building the sets, the rehearsals, the camaraderie, and all the preparation was always so much fun. I always loved that part, even though I knew that some day it would be time to play the music; it would be time to light the lights. The curtain would go up. As much as I would enjoy the live performances, of seeing the hard work pay off, I never wanted the build-up to end. It was like a bubble bursting, but in a great and magical way.
In all books a chapter has to end for the next one to begin. This is the paradox. I can’t wait to get to the next chapter and at the same time I never want the current one to end.
The girls are changing (in all the ways). I feel like my relationships with each of them has only gotten stronger over the years. Change isn’t bad, it’s just…different. Fundamentally, my role hasn’t changed.
Operationally, the needs are different but I’m still Dad. I know, with them, I’m always going to be Dad.
I can almost feel the nodding heads of those parents who have older kids than ours and I can almost hear the ”I told you so.”
For the past years I feel like I’ve been the driver of the car and now I can see, coming over the horizon, where I’ll be the passenger, both literally and figuratively. I’m ok with all of this. I’m not surprised it is happening but I guess I’ve been so caught up in today that I didn’t really notice tomorrow sneaking up on us.
Julianna just came in with her hair in an odd bag contraption for proper overnight hydration or something above my pay grade, told us she had set an alarm and was going to get in bed because she had her big trip to NYC tomorrow. She gave my wife a hug and then gave me one and off she went.
I suppose it’s a normal thing right? I find myself feeling a little sad to experience this particular chapter ending. It has been an incredible chapter. In great books, a great chapter often leads to a next great chapter and that’s what I believe we’ll get to experience.
Time to embrace turning that page.