William has been at college for a week now. I miss him more than I even thought I would. It's a strange feeling to have someone you love around every single day for almost 19 years, and then, suddenly, they are gone, and it feels like, well, that's that. I know he'll be home for vacations and summers, hopefully, but he is the opposite of homesick. He loves college extremely much, based on the few lines I've heard from him. And I am very, very glad. That is how it should be. Tonight, though, I was feeling sappy and thinking things like "it's so true what they say---they grow up so fast!" I was thinking of posting something like that for my status on Facebook. But then I thought about it. They don't all grow up so fast.
Janey is growing physically, of course. She is getting older. She will be a teenager in 4 short years. But she grows in other ways very, very slowly. Many things seem at a standstill often. Her toilet training is improving, but over years, not months or days. Her speech in many ways ebbs and flows, but doesn't really get better. She can do things she couldn't a few years ago, but still, in many ways, she's a toddler mentally and developmentally.
Tonight when Janey was crying, I got her to sit on my lap. I sang to her, smoothed down her hair, snuggled her. It felt a lot like what you do with a baby. It was wonderful. It was a rare time I was almost glad I still have a little, little one. That feels like the wrong thing to think. It's of course not that I don't want her to mature. If she was breaking away from me, if she was starting the road to someday being like William, gone away and glad to be so, I would be thrilled, because that is how the pattern of life goes, usually. But I don't have a choice about it, and sometimes, with accepting that comes a kind of peace, a kind of happiness that in many ways, I have a child who will most likely be a child forever.
There are many of us out there, I realize more each year. There are a lot of parents who have a child for life. They watch other kids breaking away, growing up, moving out, getting married, having grandchildren for them. They often have other kids doing just those things. They watch with a mixture of feelings. There is jealousy, yes. I think most of us would admit to some of that. There is envy, and there is astonishment, that for so many children, becoming an adult happens so easily, seemingly without effort. But there also comes, with time, a feeling that we are living a separate but not inferior type of life. Our kids are not on the same tenure track. They are living a parallel life path, one that doesn't have a childhood expiration date. And over the years, slowly, that becomes its own reality. I am not there yet. I still wish, sometimes, or maybe a lot of times, that Janey was following the more typical path. But tonight, as I miss my oldest, I treasure my youngest, and I am glad, for flashes of moments, that she does not grow up so fast.