It’s The Dot, Dot, Dots… That Throw Me for a Loop


I went for a walk with a friend this week to get some exercise and catch up on each other’s lives. We were grateful for one of the potentially last sunny days:  some cool, crisp fall weather.  Leaves had fallen heavily during a wind storm over the weekend and the trail was buried in gold; the air smelled of aging berries and wet leaves. It was gorgeous!

Hard not to love this.

My friend and I are in different phases of life, though only a few years apart in age. I’m older. Her boys are deliciously sweet and young still. They both dash into my arms still and give me big hugs, and boyish giggles. The younger one calls me “Huggy” because I always chased him for a hug, when he was smaller. A few weeks ago, however, when I ran into them at the Farmer’s Market, he gave me a big bear hug with no effort on my part. What a joy they are. Face painting and silliness at the Market, talk of super heroes for Halloween, the sweet smell of boy sweat on their yummy little necks. Oh how I miss that! These days, my boys give me my hugs with unspoken warnings: Don’t push it Mom. I love you, but don’t push it. Not so long ago, they wrapped me in tight hugs and messy kisses: “I love you more mommy!” And while I love how each of them smells still, because I know their smells so intrinsically, they rarely smell sweet… or innocent anymore.

Fall… a time for change.

These differences in our children are what we talk about as we walk. I have become that older mother who’s been there, done that. She runs ideas by  me and I share my experience. The advice is free, but comes with lots of buts and ifs. We’re very different people, very different mothers; I know that it helps to hear how others did it, but she’s doing a great job on her own dime. In exchange, she’s there to support me in my stuff. She’s a solid person who offers support and a kind, true ear. A hug when I need it and wonderful encouragement as I figure some things out. I am grateful for good friends like this, who are there and offer their hearts openly. And so we both had things to offer and share, and that’s what makes for good friendship really. All the better on a beautiful day, in the woods.

As we chatted we talked about how much harder it gets as your kids get older, and yet how hard it all seems when they’re little as well. So many happy, good things, but so much work at each juncture. Trying to figure out your child’s personal learning style, or when there is something that needs addressing, starts early but takes on increasing weight as those things begin to determine how your kids will do in the long run (college, social issues, etc). It’s all very real when they’re little, but it tugs at your heart with a bit more tenacity as they move toward moving on, and you realize that your time is limited… to tell them what you want them to take with them.

We walked briskly, six miles on a trail I love to walk. The time passed quicker than usual as we filled the space with our lives. Amazing how our children fill that space. She is still fairly early in this game and I warn her to pace herself. It’s a marathon, not a race. Cliche number one, but true. There are “lessons” that I can pass on now, that she his grateful to hear, and I’m still reflecting on.  Don’t try and get every single dinner perfect; it’s exhausting. I advise. Dinners have become so simple now that there is only one kid at home, I add, the weight of that sitting on my chest. I’m no longer wrangling the various likes and dislikes or life styles. None of the gluten free-kosher- vegetarian-picky of this summer and years past. One simple boy, whose preferences are established. Meals are small. I’m struggling to not cook too much, after last year when we had two exchange students and a revolving door of people here. I told her all of this and she laughed. It’s so different for her right now. I didn’t realize how much I might miss all that thought and effort… someday.

One left hanging there… waiting to blow away.

“Wow! I can’t imagine getting to that point!” She tells me this as if it’s new. Oh, I know, I think.  I remember thinking that too. Ten minutes ago, it seems. I’ve said it before: blink. But I keep it to myself. “I remember you telling me, years ago, that one of the first things you thought each morning was ‘what am I going to make for dinner.’ I thought it was funny then. Now that’s me! I do the same thing!” She tells me this and I remember that me, telling her those words… but it’s hard to remember me then. I remember my children so much more clearly. Myself: that’s blurry. Now my nest is nearly empty and it happened while I was dashing around making those dinners. I saw it coming; I was mindful, but it still happened in a haze. First my sweet girl was gone, leaving me with boys to men. I missed the camaraderie of her presence for a long time, now I just miss her. When Middle Man left, a lot shifted: the end got a lot closer. Only one more to go… coming up fast.

You know it’s like pregnancy, I tell my friend. For nine months you get used to less sleep, spilling things on yourself and not worrying so much about how you look, worrying about someone else more than yourself or your partner, shifting… and then the baby comes and you lose all that “freedom,” but you’ve already adjusted. The pregnancy gets you ready; having the baby is the “exclamation point” at the end of the preparation. “Totally! It really is.” She says this because she knows it’s true.  “So what comes next?” she asks. Wow. Hmm.

The boots I’ve kept. It’s the little feet that wore them, that I miss.

Well, I guess raising our kids is like a longer pregnancy. Each year our efforts and worries shift, the demands change. When they’re little we ease into getting it right, and then they up the ante as they get bigger-  and how they turn out, what they need, what they do, or care about, pushes us to figure out our groove. And then, just when we find it, just when you feel like you’re doing a good job, they start becoming more independent. They begin to push away a little. By high school, their every action is silently geared toward leaving us and doing it on their own. So when they finally head out the door, we’ve already started tasted more time for ourselves, new choices to make, smaller meals to prepare, less energy put out on others and more time to figure out what we want to do next. When they leave for college, I guess it’s the “period” at the end the whole experience.

My friend, walked beside me quietly. “That seems so far off, but I know it isn’t” she tells me. Nope, it comes even quicker than people like me warn it will. Now I guess I’m just trying to figure out what I do after that “period.” My friend paused for a second, and then said: “What if it’s not a period? What if it’s a dot, dot, dot?” Whoa! I’m gonna use that, I warn her. She laughs, but my head is spinning as we approach my car. Out of the mouth of babes! I guess it’s the dot, dot, dot that’s throwing me for a loop right now. The stuff that comes after those dots may have as much impact as everything that came before them. I take this in and spin it around my head. Three dots leave room for lots of things, and that is scary and exciting, from where I sit now…

Where are you in this? Taking care of little guys, or watching them go? Share your thoughts.

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Aging, Beauty, Blog, blogs, Daily Observations, Education, Honest observations on many things, Humor, Life, Mothers, Musings, My world, Parenting, Personal change, Tales From the Motherland, Women, Women's issues, Wonderful Things, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to It’s The Dot, Dot, Dots… That Throw Me for a Loop

  1. Ah… yes. It just seems to fly by. While I’m not sure I’d have the energy to have 3 school-aged kids in the house again, with all the activities and meals, etc, I do miss the noise, activity, friends, etc.
    Someone told me it’s not really an empty nest until your last kid graduates from college. We’ll be there this May! Yikes!

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    • Wow! Can’t believe you’ll have them all officially out Lisa. I think I thought that your daughter was graduating from h.s., but I just got it turned around. Anyway, seems to me that your nest is being re-feathered with grand kids! 😉 Have a wonderful weekend!

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  2. Excellent post, Dawn. I’m right there. I’m knee deep in this stuff.
    I’ve had an official empty nest for approximately 2 months. My daughter is married, living in Canada and my son graduated from college this past May and just recently moved into an apartment with his friends in Chicago. I’m really alone – my husband travels A LOT.
    I could feel this transition coming on, even when they were in High School. Did I start making big plans then? Nope. I probably should have. I think I tried to get comfortable with the emotional part of it. What would it feel like to put myself in the first position instead of at the bottom of the ladder? It still feels odd and it’s not easy. After so many years of putting everyone’s needs ahead of your own it does feel foreign. I do a lot of positive self-talk, lots of re-assuring myself that it’s okay to spend an hour in the book store or go to a matinee. It just feels like I’m missing a piece of myself. I feel adrift. I’m no longer tethered, my anchor is up. It’s scary.
    My hope is that I can now concentrate on doing things that will make a difference in the world, volunteer, get involved in my community, etc. I’d like to get a job that satisfies a new part of me – my creative side, maybe? The problem is, I can’t dig in knowing that I’m about to move to the other side of the country. Everything is on hold until I find my new place and my new normal. I don’t like being in flux. It goes against my personality. I’m not patient. So, in the mean time, I have to learn to just go with the flow, breath, and take it one day at a time. Sigh…
    Have a great weekend!
    Lisa

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  3. I’m between those stages, with my one being almost 10. He’s definitely in that tween stage, where he still gives and wants hugs, but is also Mr. Independent. However, with his various neuro issues, he has always been, and continues to be a challenge, often pushing me to my limit very often (like, last night, for instance). When he finally gets to the stage of moving out, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be so damned relieved, or find myself missing all the searching for answers. One good thing, is that in searching for things that help him, I am educating myself for what will likely become a paid career, on down the line. So, no sitting at home twittling my thumbs, wondering what to do now. I’m already on it.

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    • Bravo Mariner! I have given a lot of thought to going back into Social Work- counseling- and have even been offered some interesting options. However, writing is where I’ve landed and I hope it works out. I’ve put all the old eggs in that basket now! 😉 I hear you about the challenges though. As a junior, we are only now getting things untangled with my boy! SO frustrating and disappointing. Have you looked at “1,2,3 Magic”? Amazing program, that we found very helpful when our kids were younger. Professionally recommended, simple and very good! Hang in there, it does get better… when they’re gone. Lol. 😉

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      • I’ve never heard of 1,2,3 Magic- definitely going to look into it. Your recommendation of Dr. V was right on. We are now using a tutor that she recommended (amazing tutor!!). I just hope that by the time my Little Man strikes out into the world, he has the tools he needs to rock on. Thanks for the pep talk- lol! (We’ve been trying some ADD meds, and all they’ve done is ramp up his anxiety and frustration. It has not gone well so far.)

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  4. sweetmother says:

    great post. i like the idea of a chat between a newer mom and one with kids who are more grown… i don’t think i’ve seen that done before and it’s interesting. xo, sm

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Dawn, your post is beautifully written. And it’s also good insight as a father to hear your perspective (and that of your friends). It has been fun following along with the recent changes in your homelife. Your stories make me wish I’d had a mom like you. Mike

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  6. Dawn, your post is beautifully written. And it’s also good insight as a father to hear your perspective (and that of your friends). It has been fun following along with the recent changes in your homelife. Your stories make me wish I’d had a mom like you. Mike

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    • Thanks Mike! Of course, if you’d had a mom like me, you’d probably be wishing you had a mom like the one you have! Lol. (I hate “lol” but it’s sincere in this case). I appreciate the compliment and the time and energy you’ve given to read my posts and comment. Thanks!

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  7. Israel says:

    You will probably have grandchildren by the time your youngest graduates from college. Just saying.

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