The man made a remark about my overflowing grocery cart I carefully maneuvered to the checkout line, hoping something wouldn’t fall off.
“I used to do this every week,” I replied, matter-of-factly. I’m still thankful I get to grocery shop alone, remembering the days I took all four kids with me and we had two full carts at the Walmart Superstore checkout line.
But it’s the Friday before Thanksgiving and our refrigerator has cabbage, lettuce, and orange jello in it, along with three half eaten jars of jam. The college kid and the marrieds will be home for the holidays and I should have more than cabbage and jelly to serve them.
Getting a cart load of groceries on a Friday night was therapeutically exciting. My kids are coming home and I had to fight the urge to tell every other grocery shopper because I was almost giddy. Nesting is what they call it when a mother prepares for her young. It still happens when the fledglings who leave the nest come home.
We were home this Friday night because my youngest man-cub, a high school senior, was three hours away with his high school show choir singing the National Anthem at an Indiana Pacer’s game. We originally had plans this night, so we didn’t get ticket for the event since it was the third year the choir has had this honor.
Junior has kept us busy all fall with sporting and school events. We haven’t had a Saturday home since August. His dad and I are just. plum. tired.
Nesting this night included baking cookies for the upcoming holiday, something I haven’t done for an embarrassing long time. Cooking and baking are some of my least favorite things to do (read Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All for the full story), except when I’m nesting.
Afterwards, my husband and I sat on the couch and watched some cable TV station that had commercials for toys and young mom things I normally don’t see. I’m used to TV shows with commercials for medications whose side affects make your eyeballs fall out.
Friends at the Pacer’s game sent me photos of my son while I sat on the couch with my coffee. My sister in law sent me a video of my college son winning a half time shooting contest at a girl’s basketball game at his university.
For a moment I felt like a loser because other people were watching my kids do what seem like great things. But it was fleeting.
I was at home doing what I thought was a great thing–prepping for when our fledging kids will gather and resting from school events we’ve done for a bazillion years.
As the movie we watched ended, Toy Story was next in the queue. I watched the first five minutes of it and started crying.
My husband turned it off, asking if I missed little kids. At first, I couldn’t identify why I was crying. But then I knew.
I didn’t really miss little kids. I used to grieve over not raising little ones, but we’ve been doing it for three decades and I’m exhausted. I loved our quiet evening, just the two of us. It’s what we used to do before busy and ballgames took over our lives.
But I missed baking cookies and watching movies with toy commercials. I missed the three boys who would have been in our basement playing basketball, having sword fights, and a girl up running up and down the stairs talking with us, her brothers, and texting on her phone.
I missed being a thirty-something mom with energy and a full house. I missed us.
In this midlife season of fledging our last one, I’m often caught between tired and tears. Tired of doing things I don’t have the energy for anymore. Tears for the people I miss.
Life right now is full of ands. Exhaustion and tears. Letting go and holding on. Memories and anticipation. Joy and sadness. Endings and beginnings.
I’m learning to live in this weird space of AND. I’ve been here a while and I’m getting used to it. As life moves forward, it is more familiar. I think it’s the place God calls us to live. Never quite perfect, never quite the same, never quite like we anticipate.
This holiday season, I’m sure you’re living in the and, too. I pray whether it’s tired and tears or something else, you will spend it with people who are home to you. And you will give thanks, with me, to our heavenly Father, for everything between the AND.
For everything else about this midlife and fledging season, get Fledge, Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind and join the Fledge Parent Forum!