Even though there are just two of us at home now, I feel like my laundry basket is never empty. It seems just as I fold a load of laundry and put it all away, there are sheets and towels and more clothes to be washed. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I complete a laundry cycle, but I know it’s short lived because there is more to come. My husband is dirtying laundry right now as I type this, I have no doubt.
I finally had to adjust my attitude and accept the fact that laundry is never really finished-it just ebbs and flows like the tide. I need to remind myself that as long as I keep it under control then I won’t feel overwhelmed. It also reminds me of a slow leak, in that it just keeps flowing. I can keep up with the water leaking out, but it never stops.
I got to thinking about parenting the other day, and how when the kids were small, I felt that I was never going to stop guiding, reminding, disciplining, cleaning up. I felt I was gong to be doing all those parenting things for the rest of my life. Then BOOM! They were all grown up, and I felt this sense of relief. I didn’t have to parent any more. Or did I?
My kids are now twenty and twenty-three. They are very independent and only need me for the occasional twenty dollars or question about where their insurance cards are. Don’t get me wrong-we still pay their cell phone bills and car insurance and renter’s insurance. Their college funds pay for college and they pay all the rest. But those things are on autopilot-I don’t have to do anything with them. I don’t really have to do anything at all unless they ask me.
I’ve decided parenting is like laundry. It’s never really finished – it just ebbs and flows. Sometimes my kids need me a lot. When Nathan moved into his new apartment recently, my parenting expertise flowed. He asked for any extra furniture. So, we spent time soliciting friends and family and going through our own furniture, to come up with as much as we could to keep his furniture costs down. I helped him move into his new apartment and make up his bed and set up his kitchen. Then I was done and my parenting expertise ebbed.
When Cameron moved into the dorm his freshman year, my parenting expertise flowed. We loaded his truck and my husband’s, and spent several hours getting him settled. My parenting expertise ebbed soon after, because he has moved himself two times since that day-he said we didn’t need to bother helping.
I also see parenting as being drafted into the military. We work hard, struggle, feel defeated, gain skills and knowledge, gain confidence, and promote through the ranks until it’s time to bump down to the reserve unit. When our children become self-sufficient, we hang out in the reserve unit, until a kid calls us up for active duty. Some of us get called sooner and more frequently than others. Some of us parents are always active duty.
I have decided that my favorite analogy for my current stage of parenting is super hero status. I sit in my bat cave (or in my case Themyscira-it’s where Wonder Woman lives), doing my super hero thing, watching my super hero TV, eating my super hero meals. I’m just waiting for the signal that I am needed. Then I grab my lasso, run to my invisible plane, and fly to where I am needed. Once my mission is accomplished, I return to my resting place, and patiently wait until I am needed again.
Of course, I can always visit my kids, without being needed-and that’s wonderful. But once in awhile Wonder Woman likes to pull out her lasso and fight crime.
Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post-where are you in your parenting journey, and which analogy fits you best?