Today, on this Monday, my daughter is here, beginning her final full week at home before she leaves for college next week. She had plans for the day, but they've changed, and, although she requires zero assistance in entertaining herself, I'm distracted by her presence, wanting to be available for whatever she may propose. I have tasks to complete and deadlines to meet and the upheaval in my house matches that in my head. Too many days away have created a backlog too big to eliminate with my usual baby steps, and, although I know I'll feel better when I've organized everything into submission, right now those tasks seem less important than anything else.
I have a list and clear priorities, but no matter where I turn, I feel as though I should be looking at something else--not that this is unusual--and so I am spinning my wheels. As long as she's home, I keep revving my engines, then screeching to a halt.
I don't know how to do this new stage of parenting where departure is imminent. A part of me longs for the days when my little girl would interrupt me and ask me to play, while another part of me is relieved that I can accomplish a few things before doing what I know I'll do anyway--abandoning the desk, the piles and the deadlines to do something with her, just as I did when she was seven.
Time is so fluid, so endless, yet so finite. Gone are the days of sitting on the playroom floor, being told which Barbie I was allowed to play with--endless hours of play she doesn't even remember. Today's activities will doubtless involve an infusion of cash far beyond the cost of an outfit for a fashion doll. But they'll also include time alone in the car--conversation time even more precious now than it was when she was in middle school and we discovered the beauty of in-car conversation. I always drove then, but these days, I'm just as often the passenger.
Day by day, time is ticking away, and, as I have been so often in the past four years, I'm so grateful to be here to seize every minute of it. If I were still working, I'd be at an inservice today, stressed out about her departure in an entirely different way, wondering how I'd get it all done amid the madness that is the first week of school. I'd be leaving her lists and checking in to make sure she'd done the things on them, perpetuating the nag-ignore cycle that was so big a part of senior year and the college search, unable to participate in this very big event in my daughter's life.
Suddenly, thinking of what might have been, I feel the weight lift. If I were still working in my old job, I wouldn't have time to wallow, but I wouldn't have time to revel either. I wouldn't have been here this morning to consult on chocolate chip pancakes or nag her about that last remaining thank you note. I wouldn't feel her presence as she does her thing upstairs in her room while I do mine down here in the office. And ditching work and going out to play wouldn't be an option.
And once again, just like that, I'm grateful. Not any less sad, mind you, but immeasurably grateful. As the sands of time shift, so does my perspective, probably not for the last time.
Something tells me these next nine days are going to be both the fastest and the slowest of the summer.