When the Finish Line become the Blank Page
26 Apr 2018
Have you ever run a marathon? Or any sort of race? I have run one marathon in my life, and the last mile felt like 5 miles. The long journey of training, injury, elation, and then the actual race causes you to really pay special attention to that last mile. It’s really special to work so hard towards a goal and then try to savor the last, tiny portion before the “race” is complete. In my marathon, that last mile, 1 tiny mile out of hundreds…or thousands if I look back over my running career, felt like a long, slow motion, ending to the longest and most significant race I had ever run. I wanted to remember it, honor the work and pain and sacrifice that got me there, celebrate it, and then be DONE!
I apologize that I haven’t written in a bit: my husband and I were completing the last “mile” of raising our older kids to 18. They are now 18, and we have had time to sit back and be in awe at this almost 12 year journey we have been on raising them together. When my older kids were “born to me”, they were so young (so young they don’t even remember!) that I was blessed with the opportunity to share in this long, steady journey to that legal “finish line”.
For those of you in a Blended Family, you know. For those of you who are not, you probably know someone who is. During those years up until age 18, parents are bound by legal rules that dictate almost everything: where they kids are each hour, who pays for this, who pays for that, who makes the decision on this, who makes the decision on that. To remain positive, but realistic, I won’t go into the tough details today, but I will say this: those rules made this marathon much more difficult; kind of like training with a backpack full of weights. So Mike and I had to decide whether to work harder on this marathon of parenting with the goal of happy, healthy children in mind, as well as an integrated family…..or scale back the mileage. You know which one we chose. Believe it or not, we were so busy in the day to day mile by mile fight, that we never really stopped to think about when the legal “finish line” was done, and what that would mean….until about three months before their birthday.
As we approached their 18th birthday, we started realizing that we weren’t going to have to plan events on “our time”, or be beholden to legal handcuffs that, had we not worked so hard against, would have impaired our relationship with our kids. There was a finish line ahead…coming quickly. In some ways the routine and not knowing what life was like after the finish line was comforting because what DOES life look like after? Is it freedom from legal constraints, but no “control” at all? Is it more questions of “what if” than before? Is it all good news and the unveiling of the reward of hard work? We weren’t quite sure, and we still aren’t.
We decided to just trust that we had worked as hard as we could. Every PTA council meeting, every sporting event, every mom and dad distribution list, every banquet, every skillfully timed and coordinated family event, every conversation with other parents, every opportunity to build our FAMILY….we had done it. We had gone the distance and were coming around the last curve. So as we saw our distance from the finish line grow shorter and shorter, we started to let go and just feel joy. And on that day, there were certainly celebratory bottles of bubbly-knowing no stone had been unturned, no mile ignored, and then: like that-it was over.
We have now turned to the blank page that lies before us. There are still a lot of unknowns in this new chapter, but I suspect those unknowns are a lot like those of you in traditional families. We have enjoyed watching these two young adults start making adult decision, seeing the fruits or their/our labor unfold, and be more of supporters. So far it’s been a lot of fun to let them grow their wings and start to fly. I am pleased to see that so much of our hard work is ingrained in them. So much more than we could have known, or realized, even up to when “mile 25”, started to unfold. This blank page feels like a wonderful new adventure, albeit with some concerns that come along with blended families. We are so grateful for the ability to finish our marathon strongly, and will bring you more as we fill in the blank page ahead.