Sooner or later, there comes a time when your kids don’t need you quite as much as they once did. They have their own things to do and places to go that don’t require your constant presence, and you suddenly find yourself with time again to put more effort into your career, time to plan and dream and work uninterrupted, time to stop and consider what your life will look like when it doesn’t completely revolve around your children.
These are the In-Between Years — the time when your kids start to pull away and become more independent. It’s a time you’ve been simultaneously longing for and dreading.
It’s a time I’m experiencing right now.
My children have both gone back to school and suddenly, I’m getting to do all the things I dreamed of doing when they were constantly underfoot. While I’ve loved working from home and getting to be with them over the years, I have to admit I’ve also been looking forward to having some hours to focus on my own work, and grocery shop without constantly deflecting requests for cookies and snack cakes, and ride my bike without hearing whining when I want to go an extra mile or two longer.
What I didn’t realize, though, was that this long-awaited alone time would be so bittersweet. I used to take the three of us for granted as we moved through our days together — Now that I’m navigating that familiar terrain alone, I sometimes feel almost haunted by our past.
In this new reality, a simple walk in the park can become a minefield of memories.
I pass the Nature Center and come across an oversized chair that was once a favorite spot for after-school picnics…
Now, its emptiness unexpectedly makes my heart ache.
At the pond where we spent so many happy hours watching tadpoles and listening to bullfrogs…
All is quiet. I cross the rocks alone.
On another garden trail, in the place where a princess once danced for her admiring audience…
The stage is bare. The performance long over.
On an observation deck at the top of a wooded hill, where we often had lunch and looked for wild animals…
And another reminder of a time in our lives that has now come to a close.
It’s hard to believe that these days, which seemed at the time to be endless and sometimes unrelenting…
…have already come to an end.
I also find comfort now in remembering so many special moments I had with them when they were small.
Sharing this makes me feel a little silly. But if you are experiencing the In-Between Years right now, I want you to know you’re not alone. Seeing our kids become more independent feels good.
It also hurts sometimes. It’s all part of being a mom, I guess.
And to those of you still in the midst of that all-consuming chaos of early childhood, try your best to stop and savor it as much as you possibly can.
Before you know it, you will have time for yourself again — and you will enjoy it.
I’ve come to understand that in a way, our children will always be with us.