Saturday, August 22, 2009

Last of the Mohicans

Today we took two of our children to college and I'm feeling....nonplussed. We have 5 kids: Jacob (33), Michael (21), Christian (20), Francesca (18), and Alexandra (17). Jacob is married, has a 2-year old son, Jacob Jr., whom we care for a few afternoons a week. Michael is on his own, also lives in town. Last year Christian was at school, and the daughters lived with us. Even though we were down to the two girls, they kept the household lively. Parents will know what I mean: a household with children is uniquely full of life, and one gets accustomed to their vitality and energy....and wants to have it around pretty much all the time!

We have an offbeat family: I have one stepson, Jacob (my wife's prior marriage was annulled); two adopted children, Michael & Sandy; and two birth kids, Christian & France. They all seem the same as far as being our kids. Of course, I knew the two 'birthies' from conception. They're the only ones whose whole lives I witnessed: photos on my wall from ultrasound to graduation. As of today there's a practical end to both of these people residing in my house in any permanent sense; they join their two older brothers.

So these two are effectively out of the nest, and we are living with our youngest child, Alexandra. She and her sister were inseparable, now....? So change comes to Sandy after a lifetime of sharing everything with France, happily together every day.

I'm not sad that my kids are all growing up and leaving the nest; but I do feel, well, less than happy? If I define my adulthood as starting when I got married, then adulthood has been inseparable from childrearing. When Sandy leaves that'll be the end of decades of life as a 'houseparent' (in this case meaning a parent with live-in dependents), which is the only way of being married my wife & I have experienced. She's my best friend, we'll still get on like gangbusters when it's just the two of us. But being a houseparent has been such an integral part of our lives, I do wonder if something else will fill in that space. Now that I'm experienced at parenting, I'm running out of kids to parent. Last year for about a week we flirted with adopting some more kids...decided we were too old (both in our 50s now). Tempus sho' do Fugit. Maybe the houseparent phase is drawing to a natural close, and that pitcher will just be empty, but unexpected, new pitchers will need to be filled. Sounds good anyway. In the meantime, the kids, who have been like oxygen, are running out.

Who doesn't love this from Psalm 128:

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.

That verse has lived in my house: how many thousand laughing meals did we have at our dining room table, and I'd see my fruitful wife at the other end, between us our children shooting up, and God just bursting like the sun out of everyone? And I'd think over and over: I'm just like the guy in the Psalm. And now: the two of us and our last daughter, soon to be gone. Per Psalm 127, a quiver full of kids is good, and we're down to our last arrow.

Not much to laugh about today. But plenty to be grateful for. And God flows out of the grandson at dinner as surely as He has from our children.

And there's this: having children liberated me (more or less) from being a slave to myself (I'm sure I'm not unique in this, I just don't presume to speak for others). How surprising it was to feel more free because of parental responsibilities. Learning to be other-directed without even having to think about it. Who would I be without the lessons learned through my kids? And for all these years I never had to wonder: what are doing with your life? Why, I'm raising kids! I'm making a big contribution! Once my kids are all autonomous, what answer will I give?

As Pee Wee Herman once said, I don't know!

I'm still nonplussed.