Today is a “hang out the laundry” type of day.
I’m sure you have had these days. They are hard days, but important. Necessary to realign the emotions in a woman’s heart. Put another load in the machine, grab a drink and come process with me. After all, this parenting of teens and young adult thing is not for women who can’t face hard things.
We just put Mr. 17 and Mr. 19 on an airplane a few hours ago. 6,366 miles will mess with any Mommy heart. 10 miles can mess with a mother, never mind 6,366. The reality is, it’s not about the number. It’s about the process. The highs, the lows. The holiday cheer, the memories made, the New Year celebrating, the boredom despite the parents’ best efforts, the reminder that Lego’s and story books are not needed anymore. And sometimes it is tempting to think, we are not needed anymore either. Adventures, independence, friends, tearing the apron strings completely off, learning, and testing are what they need now. I get it. I understand. But it still feels like someone is doing open heart surgery before getting pre-op permits signed and most certainly before anesthesia. Sheets going into the washing machine.
Don’t get me wrong, I would not trade the last 2.5 weeks for anything. They were precious, they were needed, and a few moments were hard. We flew those boys to Egypt to give them the gift of experiencing a new place. In our “wisdom” we thought they would remember and treasure that far longer than any gift under the tree. The Valley of the Kings, the vast temples, the Nile River, the pyramids and desert and camels, the ethnic food, the hot air balloon ride, the dust and traffic, and the friends on Christmas eve …. were all priceless and etched images in all our minds. AND we were together. How could we be so blessed and privileged with such an opportunity as this? Sheets on the clothesline. Blankets in the machine.
Side note: While we were in Egypt, I had another laundry experience. All throughout our region, people live in apartments and dry their laundry dangling off their porches….no matter the height. I have spent many an hour observing clothes hanging high and have always rejoiced that this is not my world. But my opportunity came to enter this experience. I needed to wash the sheets and towels in the apartment we were staying in, because friends were arriving the night we were leaving. 5 flights up. Many laundry lines below. I purchased pegs so the towels and sheets would not drop below. I shook as I leaned over the balcony to hang laundry on the furthest line. I felt so “uncomfortable”. Even hanging clothes on the line can push us out of our comfort zone, especially in Egypt. So, I get it, doing “laundry” and “hanging things on the line” does not fix everything.
After Egypt, we had a week at home. Of course, they don’t feel like it is there home anymore. It was 2.5 years since Mr. 19 had come “home”. They now feel like their dorm rooms are “home”. I remember that feeling. It is an important feeling. That reality pushes them from dependency to independence. However, it was at “home” that something was sorted out in my own mind. A discovery you could say. That expat children need a time and space to process with their parents and if we are always in other people’s homes and with other people, that is a hard place for them to truly “be” authentic and open. So, even though Lebanon wasn’t thrilling, it was needed. Blankets on the line. Another set of towels in the machine.
It’s a lovely sunny spring like day. Perfect for drying laundry outside. A balm to my heart as I putter in the garden and smell the fragrance of freshly washed sheets dried on the line. A balm as I clean up 3 days of flu from the 6’4” “baby” and air out the home. At least he was home for his mommy to care for him. Now he is messaging me from Turkey, as they layover before their 12-hour flight. So independent, so grown. Clean sheets back on a bed.
This morning after their early morning drop-off at the airport- and as I began to process their departure- I questioned if I and their father had done enough? Not in terms of experiences, I think we get an A+ for that. But in terms of conversations had, challenges and shaping done, listening enough? Sigh. It was a great dose of feeling like imperfect parents, parenting imperfect children, in an imperfect world. I am so grateful for the ultimate laundry master who somehow gets stains out of garments and makes them white, whiter than anything I have ever washed. Blankets tossed in the drier, to finish off what the laundry line and sun could not do.
I will always remember my mentor, Cherie, saying something from over 25+ years ago. I wanted to clean my guest room before leaving her house. She wisely stated, “Ruth, I need to clean when you go. It is the way that I process your visit and what we shared together. It is therapy to me.” I think about her words, every time a guest leaves my house. It is even more true when my boys leave.
So here is to laundry. The hum of the machine. The cleansing of sweat, dried skin cells, and lingering scents of grown boys. And somewhere in the process my heart begins to realize it will be ok. Even though, I think it wasn’t meant to be so hard when humanity was first created. Tomorrow, I’ll wash the towels. I’m sure there is more processing to be done. Why rush it all for today and the sinking sun?
If you have any thoughts about parenting teen and or/young adult children and “letting them, go”, feel free to respond in the comments or write me a note. I would love to do some laundry with you. We can scrub, hang-out, fold, and iron together. I am sure there is much more wisdom to be learned and gathered, washed and hung out to dry.