I'm in the middle of the Long Goodbye. Currently my three teenage children are actively working on their exit strategies. They are planning their jump from the family nest, taking steps farther and farther away, waving farewell the whole time. The oldest leaves for basic training in just over 10 weeks. His sister is actively researching out-of-state colleges because she desperately needs to experience life outside of this limiting small town (Yes, I said "needs". She needs to stretch her wings as desperately as she needs to breathe). And the fourteen year-old is planning to leave homeschooling, applying to an early college program with long-term goals that include a career in technology and perhaps the military.
They are all leaving, as I knew they someday would. (Except the youngest. She still has plans to live with us forever. Right now, I'm okay with that.) But I didn't realize how this long process of saying goodbye would twist my heart. I didn't realize just how long this process of leaving would stretch, that I would watch them go by weeks, months, years at a time.
With three kids perched on the threshold of freedom and independence, I've pondered how they will look back on this nest once they've flown. How will they remember their childhood when they are safely on the other side of it?
Right now, it's hard to tell. I figure they will either remember their childhood as wonderful, their parents as the most wickedly awesome parents EVER! . . . or they will think we were absolute complete and utter weirdos.
Either one is fine with me.
|My well-loved freethinkers|
For certain, they haven't had the experience of "the typical American childhood". Home birth, cloth diapers, extended breastfeeding, whole foods, freedom, homeschooling. None of those things are mainstream.
My children will know that their parents never just followed the herd. We looked beyond cultural norms. We didn't resort to the easy road, often risking social ostracization to give them the best start in life we thought possible. In everything, in even the smallest of decisions, we made a conscious effort to thoroughly research and deliberate the life we were creating for them. My children won't be able to deny that we, their parents, embraced a parenting style we believed in down in our very core, in spite of there being easier, more mainstream, less alienating paths to travel.
I hope they know that we tried. We really sincerely and wholeheartedly tried. I hope they know that they were loved and cherished, that everything we did, no matter how counter-culture and lunatic fringe it may seem once they are out in the world, we did because there has been nothing in life that we've taken more seriously than being their parents.
It's going to be interesting to see where they go once they've left this cozy, yet radical little nest. They might turn out to be rebels and revolutionaries. . . Or they might be happier choosing to conform, to integrate, to not make waves. In that case, they'll probably look back with nostalgic hindsight and think that their parents were screwball nutcases. I'll at least know that they weren't pre-programmed that way. These kids know how to think for themselves (thanks to their screwball nutcase parents).
I just hope that in any case, they will remember how much they are loved. And maybe in that remembering, they'll still move mountains to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.