This week my husband and I spent hours on one of our works in progress – our eldest daughter. At eighteen she has come a long way, but as a friend recently reminded me, “Parenting is a tough job at times and it doesn't stop when they go off to college.”
Nor do the parental worries apparently. Yes, some do drop away when they head out the door for four years of extended study. The day to day worries do. The are-they-eating-enough-sleeping-enough-studying-enough worries - partly because they are not in your face, under your nose, living in your house 24/7 anymore.
But not the bigger worries; the are-they-emotionally-okay ones. In fact at sixteen hours away these concerns just seem bigger. Perhaps because you can’t reach over and hug them, feel their tears soak into your shirt and smooth their troubles away.
What’s a frazzled mom who can’t see the forest for the trees to do? For me, a little clearing-out is usually just the ticket to set my mood right.
The morning after a marathon Skype session punctuated with lively discussion and just a few tears on both ends I set to work.
I cleaned the craft closet in the kitchen.
And the game closet in the family room.
And the ten-year-old’s junk drawer. (I always swore living in my parents’ home with their various forms of junk drawers I would not have one; but no fear my youngest has taken up the gauntlet with gusto.)
And the bookcase in the basement.
And the grand finale: the entire sensory-gym-cum-play-land closet complete with four play tents; 6 exercise balls, 2 dress-up boxes, various pretend dishes and gourmet food-sets, and every sensory game one could imagine.
Not once during this day-long endeavor did I think about our oldest and her college woes, and the years more perhaps of parental work and worry that still lay ahead of us with our two younger daughters.
All I thought about was accomplishing the task at hand – putting order where it had ceased to exist. Enjoying the control I could exert over errant game pieces, dried out jugs of Play-doh and bottles of poster paint, long forgotten coloring books and worn-out dress-up clothes. Because I have no control over an eighteen year old with her own big ideas - nor should I perhaps to be honest.
And because what I also needed that morning after a long night of worrying was a little instant occupational satisfaction. A slap on the back and a “job well done!” A feeling that I could indeed take something and transform it in one short burst of effort. The chance to stand back at the end of a day and say, “Ah! I accomplished that! Doesn't it look great?”
And in parenting, that just isn't going to happen in one day. Oh yes, I do believe it will happen – I already see the elements of it in each of our beautiful daughters – but not in one day of effort.
Hence, I am happy to say that my closets are clean and I feel a bit cheerier this week for it.
Now I can turn my attention back to the drama of the week, and our three long term projects.