Somehow we always think we will have more time than we do. I know that's cliche but it's true. Even though you know right from the beginning that your job is to get the kids out on their own as responsible adults, even though you know right from the start that your purpose as a mother is to make yourself superfluous, it is still a weird thing when your child actually does launch.
I had the odd experience of raising teenagers before I raised small children. Watching them progress was fun and heartbreaking and educational. Seeing our former foster son now married and paying a mortgage and working as an emergency room nurse feels great, and right. That's how it's supposed to go, I tell myself. All is working out as it ought to.
And then my own oldest son left home. With about a week's notice. To move to the sub-Arctic of Manitoba. Permanently joining someone else's family and forming a family of his own. Wait a minute! Hold it! That's not how it's supposed to go! You're supposed to marry and have a family, yes, but you're supposed to end up living right around the corner so I can babysit and have you over for Sunday dinners. What do you mean I'm not allowed to decide where you live?
Of course I get myself in hand and step back and let him make those adult decisions for himself, because he is, after all, an adult now. And I tell myself it's fine, it's how it's supposed to go. He's launched. I am proud of him. But like the tubes of oil paints and rows of tiny Warhammer figures he left behind in our basement, I have been left behind too. And it feels weird. Who will make sure he eats right? Who will fetch Popsicles and thermometers when he's sick? Well, obviously he will do that himself, the same as I do for myself. But I wasn't ready to let go of that yet. I still want to sing him to sleep. But he's doing that for his own daughter now.
Now son number two has announced he's joining son number one in Manitoba to work. He'll go for the summer, and if it all works out well, he'll stay. Permanently, or at least as permanently as anything can be predicted to be in this life. And now I'll be facing yet another empty bedroom, and one less person at the table for dinner. It will be very quiet when he goes (which is silly for me to say when the three remaining people in the house are all bagpipers, but it WILL be quiet!). I know this is an age-appropriate and reasonable step for him to take. And again I'm proud of him and sure he'll do great. But somehow I didn't expect him to slip through my fingers quite yet.
I went to son number three the other day and hugged him tight and told him not to grow up, not yet. I need him at home for a while longer. He smiled and promised to hang around for a while...but he's fourteen, and it won't be that long before he launches into the world too. And I'll be proud of him too, and happy. And sad. And then I'll probably lose my mind, sell the house, buy a Winnebago, and launch myself.