I got into my mini-van today and noticed a fake mustache on the floor in front of the passenger seat. I thought it was kind of novel so I started looking around to see what else I might find and discovered a green kazoo and a few pistachio shells.
Something about those three random objects made me think about where I am in my parenting life. There used to be a day when I would have seen Cheerios and sippy cups on the floor at any given time. Diaper wipes. A baby shoe. But not anymore. My kids have graduated from the baby/toddler/little kid era and have moved on. Why do I seem to be lagging behind them? My youngest is six, which means he hasn't been in diapers for three years, almost four. He can do nearly everything on his own now. But every now and then I still catch myself being surprised when I'm just sitting in a chair at home or at a social event and my kids are functioning quite nicely without my help.
Does this happen to everyone? This failure to realize when your parenting enters a new era? There were SO many intense years of sleep deprivation, diaper changes, chasing toddlers, cutting food into kid-sized bites at meals, butt-wiping, etc. Now there are days when one of the kids MAKES LUNCH FOR EVERYONE. Or bakes a batch of cookies without my input. They do their own hair, chores, and packing for trips. It's so weird.
I admit. I'm having some moments of "what do I do with myself?" Things seem too easy. Not that there aren't new challenges, but it is different and less labor-intensive. I'm afraid that this is a precursor to empty nest syndrome. What is THAT like? You get home from taking the last kid to college and the house is empty and quiet and how many fewer loads of laundry a week will that be?
You don't have to tell me to get a life. I have plenty of interests and hobbies and identity outside of parenting, although none quite as consuming or rewarding. But there is this weird stillness all of a sudden since the kids have gotten a little older. It's like silence after a noise you'd gotten used to. It's not a bad thing, it's just different. I may have to put on the mustache and play that kazoo to keep from getting melancholy.