I Am the One Who Needs to Buck Up

July 19, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Mothering, Summertime

While we were at the Vineyard our big kids got a hankering to stay at the beach all summer long. Hannah’s summer travel job had fallen through when the program’s admissions slipped and they unhired all the college kids they’d promised jobs. This had been a big disappointment. Benjamin was working for us and helping us fix and repair and paint all the odd bits around the house. But this was not exactly thrilling for him much as it might have been for me. I told them that finding jobs and a place to live was an activity we could likely accomplish while we were there if there were serious. And so resumes were made and emails were sent in the morning to a few promising sounding jobs and apartments. And one day they got an answer back on one of the jobs and they interviewed after we got back from the beach that afternoon.. By 5:30 they had secured jobs and by 7 that night we found a place for them to live. It was a shared nannying job for three little boys ages 5, 7, and 10. And the apartment was the second floor of a young family’s house. The whole thing happened fast and felt right.

The next day Hannah started getting cold feet and I talked her though it. It was only for a few weeks after all and she loved the idea of being at the beach. I’d bring Eli to visit and maybe even her dog. Benjamin was tickled and wanted it to hurry up and get here. He misses the city and loved the idea of late night coffee shops and lot of people his age going to concerts on the beach. And as they started counting all the money they were going to make everybody settled into feeling good about it.

Only now I am the one with the cold feet. This is the first time they will have lived anywhere but home or a dorm. They will be there until it’s time for Hannah to go right back to college. (Benjamin too, but he will be living at home for this his last semester) And we are all having such a sweet summer…the five of us. There have been dinners on the porch and hours of badminton. We have skipped off to the farmer’s market, hiked to the river, and read trashy magazines on the porch. What if it was our last summer all of us together and I just shuttled them out the door with all my brave talk about how good this would be for them both? What had I been thinking?

I am a mom of nearly adult kids and the inevitable is unfolding before me. I am supposed to teach them how to live without me, and my default intuitive response was to do just that. It’s a good thing mostly, but some small part of me wants to scream wait, let’s play one more game of pinochle on the porch. My birthday and their dad’s is in August and now neither of them will be here. We have always gone to lots of summer fairs and eaten fries with vinegar and listened to horrible bands play Proud Mary. I am not ready. We had planned all kinds of things for this summer. And they keep remembering friends home from college and wondering if this is the right rest of the summer for them too. (Nevermind that they both also have college friends on the island, or that the place is packed with kids their age looking for summer romances and adventures and new friends from far away) Some small sad voice inside wants to wait for the next second thought and let it carry them away and keep them home.

I won’t do that of course. Instead I will buck them up and send them off to the sun and the sand. It’s my job to make sure they have both roots and wings. But I am just lousy at these transitions. I remember once when I was a little girl and my mom and I had been to the Muny Summer Theater to see Peter Pan. On the ride home I peppered her with questions about the lost boys. I worried abut them missing their mommies. I remember what she said that night. She said growing up is a lot harder than learning how to fly, because one only needs fairy dust, but the other requires truth. And truth always takes bravery.

I could surely use a little of that fairy dust right about now…


  • Kate

    Oh. Oh my. You are a brave one, Mrs. Paproth. And you so much understand what needs to happen, and yet? The lingering fears and sadness of your babies leaving the nest. Thank you for such a post. It means a lot to me and is actually what just now happened to me and my mom this past year. She couldn’t let me go and I couldn’t make her, so began a sick and twisted, hateful relationship that we are just now starting to heal. You’re doing the right thing, and you know it. And you’re feeling sad and afraid and you know that too, and yet you’re still doing it. This is a big moment and I’m so grateful that you chose to share it with us.

  • Molls

    Maybe you are lousy at these transitons, but you also are just more capable of the introspection. And that is a blessing and a curse.
    What is your advice, eat some chocolate and take a bath? And figure out how to visit them at the beach!

  • aimee

    I have been lurking around your blog for awhile. But I could never get my commments to save…the perils of AOL. I loev your New England stories and I loved this sweet and true mommy story because that;s what we still are no matter how old they get. Mine are 32, 28, 22, and 19. Some days I still cannot qute accept this emptry house and I am a gardner, a weekend pilot and fairly social. I need grandbabies. Meanwhile I take them to lunch and I bring them food and I watch their lives with wonder and pleasure. You will all be fine. Visit the beach after a couple of weeks when they are running out of clothes to wear!

  • Casdok

    We are now even as you made me cry!
    Seeing our children grow up, pouring so much love and attention into them, hurting for them, giving them the tools that they will need to fly. And we wouldnt have it any other way.
    I compleatly fell apart this first week, but i am now feeling abit more myself.
    Hugs to you at this time.

  • akakarma

    Oh to spend a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Firends of mine- Wamps- have a house at Aquinnah that they rent out most of the year but stay in a bit too and sometimes we are able to visit them then for a few days….Have I told you there is a spot there that I want to go if I get a terminal illness!? Alas- beyond our means even if I did have vacation time… I do have some wonderful pics though.

  • starrlife

    BTW- Here’s the new blog I’m getting started on and Trying to switchover to (when I get scraps of time:).I’d love it if you visited!I’ll put up some more pics of the vineyard!
    akakarma (starrlife)

  • Susiewearsthepants

    I am not quite there yet, but I only have a few more years before Melissa decides what she wants to do with her grown up life. I hope I am as self aware and determined as you are. It seems that raising them slips by so quickly. It’s hard to accept that we only have them on loan for a short time. Thinking of you during this transition.

  • jamie

    Fries with vinegar? I’ve never heard of such a thing!!!

    I could use a little fairy dust, too. And while I’m at it, a little truth wouldn’t hurt anything.

    Your kids are lucky to have such an adventure together. I wish my sister and I would have done something like this. And they’re lucky to have you guiding them along…

    P.S. The NE is definitely on the list of grad school locations!

  • starrlife

    If you go to Burlington,VT go to Beansies for delicious french fries with vinegar! I’ve been doing that since I was born!

  • Maisie

    This made me cry too.
    How can one’s life’s work, our very rason for being, have this horrible built in obsolesence that you must adhere to or have failed at the job? It is sad. You are right to see it. Better still to be able to see it and cry and then help them go….My own mom just played bridge and acted like it didn’t matter.We all cope in our own ways…

  • library lady

    This makes me think of my horrible teenage years–it’s only by the grace of God that my parents allowed me to live! I remember that during Thanksgiving vacation my freshman year in college, my mother and I had a huge identical-Irish-temper fight and I declared that I wouldn’t be coming back for Christmas, whereupon she declared that I wasn’t invited! [I did go back for Christmas, of course, and we don’t remember what we fought about–especially in the face of many more fights in forty some-odd years since.] You have had a wonderful family life and your nest will never really be empty. I suspect that the Vineyard will see an August birthday celebration or two also!

  • Mighty

    Your mamma was so wise. And so are you. But my heart hurts just reading this. My eldest is just going to be 14, but already I can hear this story whispering in the background of our life.
    Thank you so much for sharing. I am sending you some huge hugs.

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    I don’t blame you, at age 29 I still think it’s hard to go to my new home at the end of a fun day, instead of curling up on moms couch!!

  • Anonymous

    me too. i go to my parent’s house anytime I really want to feel home. my friends and I still hang there on the weekends. i think it’s okay to feel really close to the people you have spent most of your life with. my parents were always the ones everybody else wanted for theirs. sounds like you guys are too. when that’s true you all get to keep each other even after the transition. i figure my mom will help me raise my kids. that’s how it was long ago and it still feels right to me…

  • Jennifer

    Awww. Awww. I can feel the ache myself.

    ~*~* fairy dust ~*~*

    for you, friend.

    You are SUCH a good mother. Amazing.

    p.s. I just wrote a story for you (or, upon your request) over at my place. 🙂

  • Angela

    Oh E… I don’t have that fairy dust, so how about a cyber-hug?

  • laurwilk

    Oh, fries and vinegar. One of life’s little perks!

    I’ve never been on the parent side of this but am often on the child side. I many times head off to foreign countries and far away schools.

    They will miss you too. And more than anything, the reason they get cold feet is because they will miss those nice nights on the porch or playing badminton. But that’s what makes coming home at the end so perfect. (Or at least perfect until Mom yells at you to take out the trash or clean the kitchen.)

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