“Man, I’m tired,” my husband yawned the other morning. “Anna was kicking me all night long.”
I just smiled and shrugged. The thing is at 6 years old, she only hops into our bed now a couple times a week, and when she’s not there, it almost feels empty. For the first 13 years as parents we had a queen bed, and on some nights we had two little bodies smooshed between us, clobbering us from night til morning. Compared to that, the king we bought last summer feels enormous, and when no one is in the middle of it, it feels like there’s too much space.
Lately, it feels like there’s too much space all around me.
We moved into a new home last summer that has more room for our kids to grow. Our nearly 6-foot-tall 13-year-old was literally growing out of his bottom bunk, and as much as I hated to separate my boys, it was time to let them have separate beds. So in our new house, each of our 3 kids has their own room and I think they’re pretty happy. But…
There’s too much space between the upstairs and downstairs, where our bedroom is. For so long I could run across the hall if someone woke up sick or had a bad dream. I could hear the boys talking quietly to each other about a big trade for the Cardinals, or about something one of them had done in his own ballgame that day. Their voices would get quieter and quieter until I could finally hear them breathing sleepy sighs. Now, I can’t hear those sighs at all.
And even thought the boys are on the same floor, there’s too much space between their new rooms. It makes me sad that they no longer chat until they fall asleep, but instead head to their own beds, watch their own TVs and text their own friends. The only thing I can hope is that the bond they built during those years together is stronger than the walls that now stand between them.
Downstairs in my new kitchen, I see too much empty space around the same table we brought from our old house. The table on which I served countless grilled cheese triangles and sliced up grapes to cute little people sitting in booster seats. The table we gathered around on Friday nights to play Candy Land, Memory and Monopoly, and where each of us at the time would rather be than anyplace else. The table that now sits empty while we all gather around the counter shoving sandwiches and protein bars in our faces moments before we walk out the door to the next game, or practice, or open house.
Just past that empty kitchen table, there’s a beautiful view of our tree-lined backyard. The yard that I was sure would have plenty of space for the boys to play wiffle ball, just like they did in our old yard. And since my daughter was so upset about leaving her old swing set behind, I was sure she’d be happy that this new yard came with a swing set so she could swing and climb to her heart’s content. But…
It turns out there’s a lot of empty space in our new backyard. Just after we bought the house, I told the boys I couldn’t wait for them to play ball back there. And I was quickly, ever-so-gently reminded that they were already hitting balls over the fence at our old house, so it wouldn’t be much fun to chase balls over a fence then have to find the balls in a line of trees. And my daughter, somehow in her transition from 5 to 6, lost her thrill for swinging and climbing. Now, she’d rather be out in the street accomplishing new feats – like riding her bike or shooting hoops. Who knew all that would happen so fast?
On so many days, our entire house is empty. We leave in the morning for a basketball game and then stop for lunch somewhere before baseball practice and then move on to another gym for another game. Most of the time, we divide and conquer – with me running her to tumbling or a birthday party and my husband running the boys to games at the school or to friends’ houses. Often, we don’t see each other until evening when we hash out the day’s scores and then fall into bed exhausted.
Our busy weekends have created too much space — too much distance– between our house and grandparents’ houses that are only 10 miles away. We used to split entire leisurely Sundays with his parents and then mine, but now we’re lucky to squeeze in an hour every few weeks to pop in for hugs. Life is getting busy, and it’s not slowing down any time soon.
Yes, the bigger house we dreamed of for so many years is finally ours. But although I wanted more space to store their toys, there are now fewer toys than ever to store. And although I wanted more space for the kids to have friends over, I’m now dropping my kids off to watch high school football games or track meets. Although I wanted to host bigger birthday parties, I was told last week that my biggest son “doesn’t need a cake.” The truth is that a bigger house may have given us more rooms, but no amount of extra space was going to keep my kids from growing up.
While a small part of me still wants to fill empty kitchen chairs with booster seats and to hear little voices giggling together in the dark, a bigger part of me loves watching who these little (and not so little) people are becoming. Yes, I’m living a hectic life, sometimes barely catching my breath, but at the end of most days I see happy kids who feel accomplished and proud of who they are. And when I see that, I realize that the empty spaces around me aren’t the ones that matter. Because the one that matters most – my heart – is totally, completely full.
Thank you for expressing, so well, how many mothers feel but haven’t found the words.