Monday, November 17, 2008

The Silence Is Deafening

This post gets lengthy (yes, even more than normal) as I have a lot on my heart and on my mind, so consider yourself warned. You can either grab a cup of coffee (or a diet coke if your like me) and get comfy, or leave right now.

I actually wrote the first part of this post a couple of weeks ago, but kept waiting to post it until I felt "ready". Ready for what? Ready to admit how I'm feeling? Ready for others to know how I'm feeling? I'm not sure.

So here's the first part of the post:

I am the "CEO of Indoor Operations for the J&D Corporation". Ok yea, that's a fancy schmancy way of saying I'm a full-time mom. Those who have ever been moms know how serious I am when I say that being a mom is a lot of hard work! I'm not saying dads don't have it tough too, but I've never been a dad personally, so I can't speak for them. Someday if Jay ever starts a blog he can write about how he feels being the CEO of Outdoor Operations. But since he can barely figure out how to turn on the computer, don't go holding your breath for him to start one any time soon.

So anyhow, as CEO, my job has been primarily caring for the children 24/7. Sure, it's also involved cooking, cleaning, taxi service, and other things, but my number one priority has always been caring for our children. As they got older, it became more of a part-time position due the kids being at school, but even when they were at school, I would be the one to get called if someone was sick, or if there was blood involved, or if someone broke a bone. I was the one who had the magic kisses to make owies all better. I was the one who held their hair back when they threw up. I was the one who privately grimaced when their first word was "Da-da". I was the one who heard "Mom, there's this boy I like and.....".

Backing up a little bit....the one thing I always new I wanted to be was a mom. I dreamt about it, and after Jay and I got married I was so excited at the thought of us having a family. Time passed and we couldn't get pregnant. After 3 years and many fertility treatments we were blessed with the best words said to us: Your pregnancy test is positive. I went weak in the knees when I heard that. Soon we found out we were expecting twins, and then triplets...but our hearts were broken when we lost one of the babies at 12 weeks. Our twin girls were 2 months early, but they have grown up healthy and beautiful, and have been such blessings to us.
Have the past 18+ years been easy? HECK NO! At times being a mother has hurt me more than I ever thought it possibly could. It has caused more anxious moments, times of fear, and confusion, anger, total frustration, and pure exhaustion. But then there has also been the joy, and the pride, and the love. It's been hard, but I have loved every . single . minute of it.

Last August my duties as CEO were down-sized when Ashley & Chelsea started college. I cried so hard when we left Ashley at her dorm room that first day. I felt a pain in my chest that I had never experienced before. And the tears wouldn't stop coming. A part of me was gone. I didn't like it at all, but there was nothing I could do about it. Every couple of days I would go into her room and look around at her things. And I would cry. I wanted my little girl with the wonderful laugh back again. I wanted my little girl who talked faster than anyone I have ever met back again. But I knew things had changed, and I cried some more. Finally I had to just close her door. It hurt too much to go in.

Even though Chelsea still lives at home, she isn't physically at home very often. We may somedays still see her for a few minutes in the morning before she leaves for class, or occasionally we see her as she comes home from class or work (but frequently we are at one of Austin's activities). But then she'll head out to go see her boyfriend and she won't get home again until after we are already in bed. But even that's about to change. She is moving into an apartment with a couple of friends next month. I keep thinking that it really won't be that much different than it is now, since there are times currently when I may go a couple of days without seeing her, but I know that's not true. It will be different. Much different. And I will cry some more.

Of course Austin still lives at home, but Austin is a very quiet, introverted kid. The exact opposite of his sisters. You rarely hear a peep out of him, unless he's discussing stats and info regarding sports teams or players. I don't know if all teenage boys are like this, but most days talking to him is like trying to talk to a brick wall:

"So, what kind of problems did you do in math today?"
"Math problems"
"How's your car running? Need anything for it?"
"Fine, and no."
"What did you do when you were at Robbies house?"
"Like what?"
"Just hangin' out"
"Ok then. Been good talking to you. Let's do this again real soon."

When Ashley & Chelsea were both at home, I didn't really notice how quiet Austin is. Those two girls talk a mile a minute and it was non-stop. The noise level was always way up there in our house. I was used to it and it never bothered me at all. I enjoyed it. A couple of weeks ago, I met Ashley for supper and she was in a giggly mood. I forgot how much I loved listening to her giggle and laugh. She has the most infectious laugh, and for my heart, it was a great evening.

At home it's now quieter. Much, much quieter. And there are times it makes me so sad that I can't help but cry. I don't like the quiet. Somedays, it's deafening. Over the years, I've gotten used to the quiet during the day while everybody was at school, and I don't mind that because it allows me time to get things done. But now, in the afternoons and evenings the silence is still there, especially right now with Jay still working long hours in the field. I hadn't realized how sad that has made me, but after seeing Ashley that night, I acknowledged it. I've come to the conclusion that for me personally, I'm going through "mourning". No my child has not died, and by no means am I even trying to compare it to that. What I am mourning is a loss of what used to be. Of what will never be again. I am grieving for my daughters, because I miss my daughters...a lot. So much so that at times the pain can almost feel like it will never end.

Poor Jay doesn't like to see me hurting. He wants to be able to fix whatever is bothering me, and then we can just get on with life. So when he comes in the house and sees me sitting there with silent tears running down my face, he gives me a hug and lets me cry it out. Then he says "Can I get you a diet coke?" God bless this man. He knows how much I love my diet coke. When I shake my head no, he just stands there, awkwardly, because he doesn't know what else to do. So he turns on the TV hoping to distract me. Hoping to fix it.

I have talked to other parents who have kids who have just recently moved out, and most of them go on and on about how wonderful it is to have the kids out of the house now. They feel more free than they have in years. They LOVE it. I stand there smiling, but inside I'm thinking "Is there something wrong with me because I don't love it? Am I too invested in my children that it's hurting me to have to let go? Am I losing my mind to not want the freedom I now have? Am I the only one who is feeling this way? Am I the only one who physically hurts with a pain like I've never known? Should I be over it by now?

Don't get me wrong here, It's not like I'm clutching their barbies, huddled in a fetal position in the corner. I still go through my day like I always have. I smile, and I laugh, and I have fun. I loved watching Austin go through the cross country season, and I am anxiously awaiting the start of the basketball season soon so I can once again be the loud cheerleader mom in the stands. I play with our dogs and I do things around the house. I go shopping, and I talk to my friends. But then something as simple as a song coming on the radio can cause the ache to return. Or I stand in Hobby Lobby and see the same pink polka-dot frame I bought last Spring and used at their graduation party, and tears well up in my eyes.

Here's where I stopped writing the post. It made me cry when writing it, so I just needed to take a break and not focus on it for a while. This last part of the post has been written in the past couple of days:

At a family get together this past weekend, I had someone graciously talk to me, explaining that Jay mentioned I was having a hard time adjusting to our girls not being home anymore. She talked to me about her experience dealing with her children moving out, and she assured me that what I was feeling was totally normal. I remember looking at her thinking "Really?" Thank you for talking with know who you are. :)

Carol over at I Throw Like A Girl posted a wonderful article recently about her dogs. While her dogs are seriously adorable, it was the part of her post that dealt with how she felt having an empty nest that struck me. I sat there crying, thinking "Oh my gosh....that's exactly how I feel!" I was excited to know that if I'm not normal in how I'm feeling, at least I'm not the only abnormal one (Sorry Carol LOL).

I wrote a thank you to Carol for her post, letting her know that I believe God led me to her blog that day, because he knew I needed to read her post. She was super sweet and sent me an email with a link to another blog, Rocks In My Dryer that talks about what you need to know when you experience empty nest. Wow...another person who is understands the "mourning" I feel. And I have come to realize that I'm not abnormal after all. I'm not losing my mind. I'm not overly attached to my children. I am grieving, and it's OK for me to do so.

From all of that, I decided to try to help myself not be so sad by focusing on the positives, like, um, let's see, like...Summer Break. Yea! Summer break will be awesome! Both girls & Austin will be home. My house will be noisy again. There will laughter, fast talking, and chaos, lots of chaos. And I will love every crazy minute of it! Yes, I will focus on Summer and it will be good.

Sadly, I now know that no, it won't be that way afterall.

Chelsea told us a few nights ago that her room in her apartment sublets through the Summer (we thought it ended in May), which will be at about the same time she transfers to her dorm at her new college.

"Through the Summer".

Then, Ashley told us this past weekend that she has decided to go ahead and do a double major. She is doing a major and a minor right now, but wants to bump that up. I said that as long as she can handle it, then I was happy for her. She paused and explained that she had more to tell me, but she knew I wasn't going to like it. I braced myself , wondering what she was going to say. She said she still wants to be able to graduate in 4 yrs with her class, her roommate, her friends. But in order to do that, she will need to go to school year round.

"Year round".

No Summer break for either of them.

No Summer break for me.

It hit me like a bullet right in the heart ~ This means that my daughters will never live at home again.



And now I have learn to accept that. I hate it, but I have no choice. I won't deprive them of their happiness, to satisfy my own selfishness. I will learn to accept it.

And I'll grieve. For however long it takes me to go through the whole process. And that's OK.

And then after a time, the clouds will break, the sun will shine, and we'll finally settle into our new routine, and life will go on without all the pain and tears.

Yesterday I informed Austin that he can quit studying right now, because I'm never allowing him to graduate, and he gave me his typical long-winded response: "Uh, OK". :)

***There is a song out by Trace Adkins entitled "Then They Do" and I have it on my song player thingy in the right hand column. Click on that and listen to it. It really hits home for me and how I have been feeling. Or, better yet, click on this link and see the video for it:


Anonymous said...

What you are feeling is very normal I know, from experience, you just long for the phone calls and visits (anywhere or anyplace) - the quiet gets louder and the emptiness feels greater. That is where the reality of your spouse becomes very great and you pick up the pieces of when you first 'became one' - enjoy those moments as time does goes quickly. I love you all and do hurt too and its o.k...........

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Dena, the book proposal I took to She Speaks was all about this. I know EXACTLY what you're going through. I've posted some on this topic, too. You are NOT alone, not weird--just a mom who loves her kids. We don't love them less when they're in their 20s. For a long time, I felt like someone reached into my life and dismantled my family, and I was not happy about that; we were fine the way we were. But I always tell myself, be glad they're going to be independent adults. This is what you were striving for since birth, actually, and now it's happening. It just went so fast! We don't want them to be emotionally stunted, too attached at home to individuate, but that doesn't mean our hearts don't break daily. Sorry to go on here so long. I'll have to get with you later, if you feel like it on email. You can email me any time. Love you.

Pam from alertandorientedx4 said...

Dena,--wow! I clicked over after you commented on the recipe and now I'm sitting here oldest is almost 18 and will graduate this spring. Youngest is 12 and there are 2 more in-between. I am both dreading and looking forward to this. Dreading, because like you, I know I will mourn. Looking forward, because sometimes, there comes a time. My husband have always tried to focus on the fact is that we are raising our offspring to become healthy adults, not eternal children. But, YIKES! I can totally see this being me. And I figure I'll be smack dab in the middle of menopause when my only daughter leaves...sheesh. I will pray for you. (p.s. Gonna try the little cake mug/mix thing for all the volunteers who work so hard for my ministries! Thanks for the tip!)

The Naths said...

Holy crap! That's gonna be me! I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes and that stupid lump in my throat because, I KNOW I will react the same way you are, and this means you're normal because, you see, I am very normal. I cried when Jakob turned four...and not just once either. I mean, he was officially no longer a toddler. Ok, so maybe that is lame, but he is my last "baby" so see, this is how I know I will be a total mess once they move out. So, anyway, I totally have no advice for you 'cause I'm not there yet, but I'm thinking of you! =)

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

You know what you just did? You just reminded me of a truth...that this time I'm in now (because I'm in the sometimes frustrating, exhausting stage right now) is only a vapor. And even though I cherish "peace and quiet," I really do love the ruckus and chaos of three boys wrestling around in my living room about to bust the TV through.

I'm an only child, so all this sibling rivalry stuff is difficult for me to understand and I get irritated with it. But when I watch them play together and work as a team to get the fort built, that's what I'm gonna rememeber and long for.

Thank you for getting my heart focused on the crazy, loud good things and off the goofy irritations of dirty handprints on the walls and fall leaves strung across the carpet 30 minutes after I vaccuumed. Who cares?

I wish I could hug your neck right now. I'm sorry if I made you cry, but you made me first. :-)