By Kristie Young Fairbanks
Three weeks ago, literally a third of our children moved out, two of our six kids left home and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Earlier, our oldest son returned from serving a two-year church mission, and recently reinstated his pursuit of a college degree. Our second eldest son, taking a year’s worth of university classes before his own two-year mission, had been at school for a full semester already and had moved back home during his winter break. Our entire family of eight was finally all together once again for a full month of holiday bliss, a joyous phenomenon we hadn’t experienced in years. We had a grand holiday, of which I frequently mentioned that this might be the last time all eight of us would be together as a family, due to upcoming missions, marriages, schooling, and the like.
We ate extraordinary meals together, traveled north to savor the snow, built campfires, and poured over ancient family videos of treasured years past. I dared time to stand still so I could relish in our precious family togetherness, but it streaked by all too soon. The inevitable, fateful day finally came to say our goodbyes. I was wary of the whole idea. I knew I couldn’t hold onto my eldest sons forever, that our family unit was still somehow intact, but moving two children in one day can be tough on a mother.
There I was, forced to deposit our sons on their own, one on the doorstep of a university dormitory and the other, on the threshold of a foreign apartment complex nearby, both poised to enter the university phase of his life. I wondered how I’d be able to do it, one child leaving the nest was heartache enough, but two on the same day seemed overwhelming. My inner turmoil churned. I knew that they’d both lived on their own already, but I finally had each family member home for a felicitous, albeit brief, time and I was not going to give that up easily. With a heavy heart, I left each son, in turn, on the brink of their new lives. Each time I drove away, I checked to see if either son looked back to acknowledge his mother, knowing full well that he wouldn’t and even shouldn’t. Both had new thresholds of their own to cross, independent of me. Granted, there’s much more room in the house these days and the table isn’t as crowded, or loud, at dinnertime.
Their old bedroom can breathe easier with two less young men bursting at its seams. The refrigerator food definitely lasts longer and I make fewer trips to the grocery store, but it’s bittersweet. Yes, I knew it was time to let them go, again. It’s supposed to be this way, but I couldn’t help feeling melancholy about these new-fangled growing pains I had just developed. The pleasures and pains of parenting never cease. I guess I still have some lessons to learn, it comes with the mothering territory. My tender growing pains aren’t front-page news, but they’re real and life-altering for me.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that being a mother is timed and precious, children never stop growing. They say time waits for no man, nor mommy for that matter. Nevertheless, I still have four children at home that need me. Our family is definitely shrinking, but in a good way. I guess it’s time to instigate a fresh “Mommy Zone,” one that constantly ebbs and flows, a beauty called motherhood that’s worth all the effort, despite fleeting growing pains.