As a parent, I have become irrelevant.
No, really. Apparently, when I wasn’t looking, my children grew up and they no longer need me.
A good thing, I know, but still.
See, last week my youngest got his license. Finally! I thought as I sat in Hell’s waiting room at the DMV. No more days broken up by a kid’s schedule. No more trying to finish work, clean the house, run errands and prep dinner during the two hour window between shuttling back and forth to practices or during the surprisingly short block of time between morning drop off and afternoon pick up from school.
And, most importantly, no more late night pickups from friends’ houses! Yay!
I would finally be able to don my pjs before 10 p.m. and not have to worry about running out in said pjs and being pulled over by a cop who would assume that I had been drinking or that I stole the car simply because I look like a vagrant. No silk robe or adorable short sets for me. No, my choice of sleepwear consists of a ratty old pair of shorts, a faded t-shirt and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I stole from my brother in high school. Pair that with my drooping sleep-deprived eyelids and my mop of hair and you can understand my fear of being mistaken for a drifter.
Those days are over!
So imagine my surprise when my son got his license and drove away from me for the first time and my first thought was: Wait! What? Driving you everywhere and bitching about it is my job!
Just like that. After 16 years as a chauffeur, my services were no longer needed. I’d been unceremoniously let go.
The running joke in our house is that I am constantly trying to get fired from this mom gig. When I cook a mediocre meal or I forget to wash someone’s favorite shirt, I beg my family to fire me. “I’m just no good at this job,” I say. “Go ahead, fire me. I’ll be OK.”
But I didn’t really mean it.
I read somewhere that our job as a parent is to make our job as a parent unnecessary. We are supposed to give our kids all of the skills they will need in order to do all of the things we currently do for them so that they can go live productive adult lives and not need to call us to figure out how to boil water. (That’s what YouTube is for.)
You teach them things, like how to read, write, use the bathroom on their own, cross the street, organize their homework, feed themselves something (anything!) and do laundry because you want them to be free of you, and a little part of you wants to be free of all of that crap, too.
Be careful what you wish for.
I don’t think it matters if you are a stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, or a parent who works full time or part time — most parents just want to take care of their kids. They want to nurture and dote on their kids, and part of doing that is doing things for their kids. However, when your kids no longer need you to do those things for them it is both gratifying (Yay! Job well done!) and bittersweet (Who will I read a bedtime story to now?).
Of course, I’m not talking about the mind-numbing or gross stuff that they eventually can do on their own, (I have never felt nostalgic for the diaper changing days), but the stuff that is occasionally fulfilling. Like driving them around. As their private driver, I felt my kids were safe(r) if I was driving. I also had the best conversations with my kids while driving, since they did not feel the pressure of having a face-to-face conversation. And, (probably the best part) I could eavesdrop on carpool conversations. For whatever reason, kids forget that you exist when you are the driver and they talk about things they would normally never, ever say in front of you.
Sigh. Those days are over.
Now I will just need to be satisfied with my new, pared-down job description. My position has been streamlined, but not eliminated entirely, because it’s feeding time at our house (otherwise known as lunch) and as I write this, my 20-year-old son just asked what there is to eat.
I guess I’m not completely irrelevant after all.