Dropping our oldest grand/daughter off at college last week had an unexpected effect on me...
My husband and I never thought we'd be spending "our time" raising our grandchildren. We had planned and worked hard so that by our mid-forties, when our youngest daughter would be entering college, we could finally relax a little and be done with child raising.
That was a very long time ago. And it didn't happen.
Before we reached our fifties, what had started as us caring for our granddaughters part-time had turned into us being their full-time parents. Instead of my husband slowing down his workload with the goal of semi-retirement by his mid-fifties, he found it necessary to work additional hours and occasional part-time jobs to help make ends meet. After all, children can be quite expensive.
But the biggest toll on me, and the primary reason I didn't look forward to raising children into my sixties, was emotional. Children are often a source of anxiety and stress in our lives.
I love my grand/daughters with all my heart and soul. They are my children. And I worry about their health, happiness, safety, future, and in every other way possible.
It is draining.
And I was drained before I started.
My husband and I thought that the beginning of the "college years" (part 2) would signal the beginning of our golden years. We have both worked hard to stay healthy and maintain our strength and balance as we get older so we can enjoy all the things we should have had time and money to do years earlier.
But now, with the realities of sending a beloved child out into the adult world, we are starting to wonder if we're ready to let go. Raising a teenager brings worry during the hours they are out running around. Once they're home, we can calm down and relax a little (until the next day when they do it all over again!)
When they're old enough to move out into the big-wide-world and are no longer safe and sound in their own rooms under our watchful eyes, the worry becomes a 24/7/365 event. And what I was really in need of was a little peace of mind and a sigh of relief.
Why did I not realize where this was headed??? After all, I had already sent another child off to college years ago...and much farther from home.
I think that back then, because our family had been in utter chaos for several years, we felt we were sending our youngest daughter out to a better, more peaceful place. And we were already caring for our two grand/daughters, so we couldn't really see an empty nest looming on the horizon.
We were very busy. And a little naive.
But here we are during a time of relative stability, and the reality of watching our grand/daughters fly from the safety of our nest and navigate the world without us is terrifying. And a little lonely.
It isn't at all what I expected.