The time between door slams

The door slammed and I heard my sons’ voices fade into the night. I believe they were bantering about the World Series, and whether their hometown Cubbies or my hometown Indians should win.

And then, silence.

The dog looked at me and I at her, both of us at a loss. We are used to being abandoned every other weekend when the boys are with their father. But this felt different.

My eldest was sporting a hot off the presses driver’s license, only about four hours old. He and his younger brother were headed to pick up the dry cleaning and some batteries for me.

We’re talking maybe a 15-minute trip at most.

And yet, the urge to pace was overwhelming. Bailey joined me on her four furry legs.

The voice I don’t like to listen to, that busybody worrywart voice, decided to make itself heard.

“Soon, they’ll come in and out of that door infrequently.”

Shut up.

“They will have their own lives, their own cars, their own plans. And you will take a backseat.”

That is as it should be. My job is to train them to leave me.

“Do you really want to be left? All alone in this house? No lacrosse balls rolling around, no sweaty locker room smells, no video game controllers to stub your toe on in the dark? No raucous laughter from the second floor? No light snores from the rooms down the hall?”

I distinctly recall saying, ‘Shut up.’ Let’s follow that directive, shall we?

“You had children thinking you would have a husband who would grow old with you. You’d both wave from the front porch as they headed to college after holiday break. Now, when they go—it’s just you. Even Bailey will be getting ready to leave you by then.”

Sigh. No shutting up, eh? We’re not going around the issue, but through it, are we? Well then. Listen up. I’m only going to say this once. I would like—but do not need—a man standing next to me waving. I will not chain them to me because they are worried I am going to be lonely, or wither away, or have hours in which to twiddle my thumbs.

No. Let me say it again. NO. While I regret not having more minutes to spend with them now—now when I’m in the thick of it paying tuition, keeping the house they’ve grown up in, showing them bits of the world now and again—I do not regret showing them what engaging in life looks like.

I want to see them best me. I want to know that they’re riding a camel in the desert, hiking a stream in the Alps, falling in and out of love, performing heart surgery, building the next super-car.

And while they are doing those things, I will try to catch up—perhaps—on some bits I missed out on. That work trip to the south of France I could not take because my baby was a week old and I did not want to leave him. The Kuala Lumpur jaunt I could not take because—at seven months pregnant—a trip around the world was not wise. The 800-page books that have sat on my “to read” list for years. The book I have in my heart that is not yet fully written. The camel in a desert, the stream in the Alps, falling in and out of love—sure, those too. Heart surgery and super-cars may be beyond me, but those will be taken care of by two of my best loved. All the rest I will claim as my own in due time.

So, yes, annoying, petty, small little voice, I DO want them to leave eventually. Not that I won’t shed tears and miss them and feel as if my heart is being shredded with a cheese grater. But, I want them to live. To live the way I have hopefully taught them to do. To come home with stories of their adventures and their failures stronger, wiser, softer, gentler, kinder, more seasoned. To bring their own brand of light to this confused world.

And when all of this happens—when we sit by the fire with our spiked hot chocolate and tell stories—I will revel in their tales. But I will not be without stories of my own.

With that, the door swung open and my two man-boys walked back in sporting dry cleaning, batteries and the unhealthiest snacks I’ve ever seen for purchase at the drugstore.

No more time for conversations, silly little voice.

This mama is busy making the most of the time in between door slams. After all–as you’ve  so helpfully pointed out–it goes by so fast.





45 Comments Add yours

  1. Dale says:

    You are always so on the ball with these stories.
    Right now my men-children are breathing my air and in a period of can’t-stand-each- otherness so I am counting the days when they move on…
    Of course, there are still days where I kinda want them to stay…. kinda.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I know the feeling all too well. Conflicted!

      1. Dale says:

        Like I said… lately I am so ready for the next phase… in a few weeks, who knows?

  2. Emily says:

    Love your honest look on parenting can definitely relate. I have also started a blog about my parenting journey and would love you to stop by 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly will stop by. Glad you were able to do the same here and it resonated:).

  3. Hey Kay!

    My mom should read this, I don’t have the heart to tell her that her kids are grown up now. I don’t even know how to say it though

    1. candidkay says:

      Wise man :-). Because I guarantee you, she already knows. She is just in complete denial. Probably until grandkids come along :-).

      1. That is just more pressure Kay! 😛

  4. Beautiful Kristine – wise and funny and sad and optimistic all at once.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. Amazing the melange of emotions we can feel at one time.

  5. The empty nest thing is such a mixed bag. My oldest son left home at 25 so I was ready. If he had been younger, it would’ve been harder. But you’re right. Now’s the time to think about what you eventually need and want in life. The world beckons. Its exciting.

    1. candidkay says:

      Exciting and scary at the same time! A blank slate . . . hmmm . . .

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    You chose a perfect title for this piece, Kay, and your inner dialogue has occurred in the minds of all the moms i’ve ever been close to. I never had and raised children, so I am unfamiliar with the thoughts, but you have recorded accurately the thoughts that others have shared with me. I will say, though, that I have rarely heard the resolution you shared, the desire to live your life fully after your children depart, so you, too, will have stories to tell when the three of you gather. I like that.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’d feel like I was doing them a disservice if I did anything but that :-). Thank you so much for the kind words and, as always, for reading.

  7. Oh, I was in need of a good cry today. Lovely, truthful, and hopeful post. I particularly love the bit about extra time for your pieces. I’m starting to think that’s a gift that comes as our children get older. We get to see ourselves again. 🙂

    Two of mine are a little older now and they are my favorite adults. You’ve planted and tended your garden well. They will bloom and brighten your world for the rest of your days. It’s a relationship, deep in the roots. There’s not such thing as an end, just change.

    So beautiful, Kay. Thank you for the cry.

    1. candidkay says:

      As long as it was therapeutic:). You’re right, of course. I need to see it as less of an end and more of a change in form.

  8. Cindy Frank says:

    Bittersweet and beautiful post. You are quite right-the pain of their leaving is superceded by the thrill and the joy of seeing them do what they were meant to do. And the satisfaction of helping them get there.

    1. candidkay says:

      Trying to focus on the joy:). But every once in a while I slip up.

  9. I promised myself when my first child was born I would’t get so lost in past memories or future daydreams that I lost sight of the moment I was in. Some days the future casts long shadows and the lull of sweet memories pull at my attention; the time between door slams is a beautiful way of naming that emotional space, Kay.

    I’m working on my stories, too.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I, too, try to stay in the moment. Which is probably why when these feelings hit, it’s such a surprise.

  10. dinnerbysusan says:

    It’s a balance beam we live on — this sending the children forth. It’s so exciting to see those wings spread, but oh so bittersweet!

    1. candidkay says:

      Bittersweet is exactly it! We are doing a good job if they fly the nest and are independent. But it does tug at the heartstrings.

  11. Elyse says:

    Don’t worry. After college they, like my son, will be living in your basement.

    1. candidkay says:

      Howling:). At least you’re not lonely!

  12. This was magic and so sincere.
    “But, I want them to live. To live the way I have hopefully taught them to do. To come home with stories of their adventures and their failures stronger, wiser, softer, gentler, kinder, more seasoned. To bring their own brand of light to this confused world.” I love this. It’s beautiful. And they will bring light to this world. They will, and in that will be a part of you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, you brought a tear to my eye. Thank you. Music to a mother’s ears:).

  13. fritzdenis says:

    We see our kids a handful of times in a year. They’re in grad school in Miami and Athens, Georgia. And now they’re getting married. Their lives are no longer centered around our nuclear family, though Judy and I still play a big role.

    I didn’t anticipate this worry, but now I’m concerned about how we’ll all get along at our reunions once there are spouses in tow. My Mom took three decades to appreciate Judy, and our visits were sometimes tense and unpleasant. A friend of ours recently lamented his daughter’s marriage into a family in Alabama that leans toward 19th century attitudes about race and politics. She now shows signs of being influenced by them.

    Your message about letting your children make the best of their lives comes at a good time. My instincts to protect them won’t help them learn and grow, and making the most of my time will help me to enjoy watching them follow their own paths.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, as I read about your friend’s daughter, my own stomach was tied in knots–and I’m not even her parent! Ouch. They have their own lessons, don’t they? Sometimes so painful to watch. I am going to try to keep my zen about me as girlfriends, etc. replace my queen bee status. I am hoping I luck out and it’s not an uphill battle. Yours may not be either! Maybe they’ll pick a spouse you’d choose as a best friend:).

  14. So beautifully said, K. Tender and wise and forward-looking.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Cynthia. It’s the forward looking part that freaks me out a bit:). Trying so hard to stay in the moment!

  15. Being aware of these precious moments and years you have with them is all you have to remember! You are doing a great job Kristine 💚

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Precious they are:).

  16. Too fast Kristine…waaaay too fast! 😀
    Great post, great ponder…but a greater acknowledgement of what you have passed on to them. You have helped create the future 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly hope it’s a bright one, Mark:).

      1. Oh it will be Kristine, and within it they will find themselves, and a love like no other…all because of what you, and your husband, gave them 😀

  17. I’m a little bit ahead of you, with my girls in their 20s and long gone from the nest. But I remember having those thoughts too. Chase them away…you know you will do exactly as you say and revel in their adult selves, their achievements, and their visits (yes, they will, probably more often than you think!). And they may even want to take some of those trips with you – mine do!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I hope so Lee! Trips together as adults would be truly fun:). You always remind me what is down the road–the voice of sanity. Thank you !

      1. My girls seem to love travelling with me – and it’s great fun, quality time that we don’t get any other time. They also travel with their father once a year, and love that too. It’s a whole different dynamic when you are on an equal, adult footing with them. You will see!

  18. Oh man, that twanged my heart strings so much I might cry. I have a feeling that somewhere along the way, in the not too distant future, a guy – just the right guy – will show up, in a most unexpected way. And that it won’t take you very long to recognize him. And when you do, you’ll smile, while on the inside you’ll be giggling, wondering what took him so long.

    I can’t believe that my boy will be turning 14 in a few weeks. It sounds so old. I’m still getting used to him being taller than me (by more than 3″ now!).

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, yes. The looking up at your own son bit. I’ve had to get used to that also. And when he hugs me and is bigger than I am. So odd–and yet so gratifying. I’m both glad and sorry I twanged your heartstrings:). I feel like that is part of my job–but who wants to cry on a Thursday night?:)

  19. so well expressed…some good reminders for me in there 😉

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Not easy (gulp).

      1. I know, been there. I think you’re doing it well though – well considered ahead of time! I just kind of fell into it without being prepared!

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