The other night my 17 year-old-son fell asleep on the couch while we watched a show. Seeing him there simultaneously brought a smile and some tears. I have been experiencing those tears more frequently lately.
As I have confided previously, I don’t like change. Yet these darn kids of mine keep growing and changing. The biggest change is feeling far too close. As a high school junior, my son will be off to college too soon for my liking. As the realization sets in, the tears come more readily.
I am very excited for the next chapter of his life, but that does not stop me from feeling sad at the close of this chapter. While I want to acknowledge these feelings, I do not want to get lost in them and I certainly don’t want them to overshadow my excitement, or his.
To this end, I am really working on my mindfulness skills. There are days it comes naturally, and days when I have to course correct my brain an infinite number of times.
A big challenge to my mindfulness is staying in the moment. College preparation requires planning ahead, something that often comes too naturally for me. While that planning is exciting, I also know that too much time spent in future thinking is a leading cause of anxiety. It also pulls us away from the present moment.
I don’t want to miss out on enjoying his last year and a half at home by spending all my time thinking about him leaving. I want to enjoy his interest in school topics now, not just for how they may play out in college. I want to enjoy attending his swim meets now, not just wonder how his times will impact college recruiting. Most importantly, I want to enjoy his ready smiles and hugs now and not get lost in knowing they will become less frequent.
Beyond working to stay in the moment, I am also working to stay mindful of both components of change. As I have written in “Change Involves Loss and Gain,” we often become upset and fearful about change because we focus only on what we will lose. Yet every change involves gains that we also need to be mindful of.
It is easy for me to see both the losses and gains my son may experience. Yet, I tend to be overly focused on the losses the change will bring to my life. Specifically, I love being a mom. I have dreamt of it since I was a tween and have cherished the experience. Not to say there weren’t many moments I could do without!
I see my son going off to college in terms of the loss of a phase of parenting. Yet, intellectually I know there will be many personal gains as well. The most obvious is more sleep and fewer commitments. While that sounds nice, it doesn’t ease my sadness. However, I also know there are gains that I am not yet aware of. There will surely be an adjustment period, but then I have the opportunity to discover other sides of myself. Who know what I might find? The point is that even if I don’t know what the gains will be, I am confident that they will be there.
I am hoping if I practice all of this mindfulness enough, I will get better at it. Afterall, once my son goes off to college, I will start worrying about my daughter leaving!
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