She sat across from me, her eyes tearing up. “I am at the end of an era. My youngest child just graduated from high school and my life will never be the same,” she said. This wasn’t an expression of sorrow from a client or even a friend. She was a stranger at a charity dinner. It was 1998.
I was on the other end of the child rearing spectrum. At the time, my children were 5, 3, and 1. My oldest was yet to start kindergarten. My dinner companion smiled, “It will go quickly; time will fly,” she said. I remember being unable to imagine it. I was in the trenches with peanut butter sandwiches, diapers, play groups, sippy cups, and preschool snacks. My days were fulfilling but exhausting and endless – how could it possibly go fast?
Now, 17 years later, I am the older woman at the table, reflecting on the end of my parenting era. My youngest child has just graduated from high school. A stepdaughter has also graduated from high school. Did it go quickly? Yes and no. The years were filled with many changes and events . . . a whole lot of living occurred. And yet, yes, there is a sense of having blinked and then it was over.
As with all endings, there is sadness, a poignant wistfulness. But there is also a sense of hopefulness. Even as a door closes on my child rearing years a window opens elsewhere. I have yet to look out of that window but I know that I inevitably will. Meanwhile, today there is a woman with a baby somewhere, about to blink her eyes and flash forward 17 years, wondering where the time went.