Kids have a way of growing up and changing in all the ways they should, and while it's completely natural, and parents for centuries have bemoaned this fact, it's still a shocker to every parent when they realize that their child did the exact same growing up thing that they did themselves, and have seen others doing. It's a phenomenon that can't be explained. The most analytical parents suffer from this just the same as the least observant. You'd think it wouldn't be such a shock to wake up one day and realize that your child is practically an adult, but it is. And it'll continue to be for every parents for the rest of time.
It doesn't help when you have boys, and they take growing spurts that make them literally outgrow you overnight. One evening you're telling them goodnight and patting their head, and at breakfast the next morning you're straining your neck to look them in the eye. This happened with both my boys. I have one to go, and he's closing in on me fast. His genes have conspired against him, dictating that he'll be shorter than his brothers because of a chromosomal anomaly, but he'll still outgrow me because I'm short. He'll feel good about that someday. Probably someday next year.
We're in an odd stage of parenting, somewhere between Having A House Full of Kids and being Empty Nesters. I don't recall hearing about this life stage before, but it happens to everyone. I think, maybe, it's such an oddly bittersweet time that parents don't want to talk about it, but simply cherish it. Plus, it's a busy time, in a different way than being busy with toddlers. With toddlers, you can sit down in the evening when you've wrangled those rascals to bed, and breathe a sigh of relief. Or at least pay the bills in peace. In this transition stage, you've got kids coming and kids going, kids enrolling in college and kids planning international trips with someone other than mom and dad. Kids are at band practice several days weekly, and hang out with friends more often than they're home, and have more jobs than I do (and that's a lot). Kids that are this busy, somehow, create chaos by just not being home consistently. That, too, is something nobody speaks of. How can it be explained? It just can't, really.
We've got a kid in college, 16 hours from home. He's basically moved there, refusing to come home over summers and giving limited time at holidays because work there is better than work here. I get it. I commend him for seeing this benefit and capitalizing on it, but he's moved on. We're learning to let go, slowly, as parents must. We have another kid leaving for university next month, after being in community college for the past year. That'll be interesting, to have 2 kids gone. A third kid is enrolling in community college for next semester, but at least he'll be home. Less now than before, and that was precious little, but his bed will be warmed nightly.
We're kind of, sort of, down to just 2 kids at our mercy. This is something we've not experienced since we had just 2 toddlers, and that's vastly different than having 2 teens. At our life stage, we're able to travel more often, and we get to pretend that we have just 2 children when we go. Not that we don't want our other kids to be part of our family, but the wallet is able to be more generous with just 2 than it would be with 5 kids in tow. This is fun for us to experience. The odd life stage we're in is one to be enjoyed, like any stage. It's going to be short lived, because the "little" boys are not so little anymore, and at ages Just Turned 16 Today and 13, they're not going to be our travel buddies very long either.
I have always been glad that we have a large family. I love the chaos that comes with it, and the constant motion and activity. But while the sheer numbers are what created this odd life stage we're in, leaving this gap of Not Here But Not There Either, it is also a buffer for us to learn to let go, slowly. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be for parents with one or two kids to have to say goodbye to them in the space of a year or two, and instantly have to learn to do life all over again. I get a transition period, and I'm so grateful.
Kids grow up. It's a thing, and it's beautiful to watch. I can't even begin to tell you how much the 16 year old matured in the past year. It's crazy to us all how much he's turned into a responsible adult, and yet the others are working, attending college, growing savings accounts, buying cars, and taking care of chores around the house like it's their own. Proud isn't a strong enough word to describe what we feel when we see how the kids are growing. But the flip side of this is the fact that there's that much more to miss when they're gone. This transition stage transforms kids from Your Child to Your Friend. That's another oddity you don't hear of, because it just subtly happens and you're largely unaware until one day you realize that your friend is moving on with their life while you're living your own. This is why the empty nest is a struggle for parents. Not so much because they're losing their children, but because they're losing friends.
Life is full of stages. Making an adventure of each stage is my new life goal. I have no gauge to determine if I'm doing it right or not, but I'm having fun, so I take that as a win.