2014 was the first year I had no children starting school since 1992.
The memory of dropping off my daughter for her first day of pre-school, my 3-month-old baby boy in my arms, is so vivid. Everything in my life was brand new – my children, my home, my marriage, my minivan, my friends. There was so much to wonder about and plan for the future.
Raising children was filled with new experiences, opening doors for both my children and me. Each new teacher, new friend, new team, new skill, new interest – the ever-evolving lives of my growing children kept me constantly changing my focus and adapting to new expectations. The sense of anticipation at the beginning of the school year was always the most exciting for us – the teachers and classmates, textbooks, assignments, field trips, and special events all laid out on a school calendar, sent home in my children’s backpacks on the first day of classes (now I’m sure available only online). I would diligently add everything to our color-coded family calendar that hung on the refrigerator – green for my daughter, red for my son. Along with all of the new events came new supplies to purchase – bats and balls, folders and pens and binders, costumes and uniforms and tap shoes and cleats and socks and tights.
The constant new is something I miss sometimes.
With my children grown and an empty nest, it’s not as easy to find things that are fresh and exciting in day-to-day living – and it was so easy when they were growing up. My children brought home news every day, from the good to the grumbly, and though sometimes their lives often seemed to overtake mine, they were a constant source of newness in my life. For months my son was obsessed with David C. who lived around the corner, the only boy he wanted to play with. Then he moved on to Alan P. Then Brad H. Each new friend became a different story to be told, another family to get to know, another parent to communicate with, another phone number in my DayRunner (remember those?). My daughter was in a children’s theater program for many years, and every 4 months they staged a new musical. There were auditions; then songs to learn, costumes to make (or hire someone to make, in my unskilled case), dance moves to memorize. Week after week we’d hear the soundtrack to The King and I, and then when that was over we moved on to Lil’ Abner. Then Oliver. I was carried along on their waves of newness with almost as much enthusiasm as they were.
And then there were the sports teams…the drama of being picked, or assigned, a squad, finding out which, if any, of their friends (and mine, of course) were on the team. The excitement of what major league baseball uniform he would wear, what her team name would be (a decision of monumental importance in girl’s softball).
And that was all before middle school.
Sometimes, it seems like there’s not much new at midlife.
Some of my friends travel a lot – they’re headed somewhere nearly every weekend, every month, planning trips and adventures. Travel is a great way to experience new things. I envy their spirit of adventure, not to mention their tolerance for frequent air travel, but that’s not something I’ll be doing on a regular basis.
I find the new in my life in books and films and television shows. I find it each day on social media, with entertaining and enlightening friends who share updates and news that I would never have found on my own. I find it in my friends and their lives, their children’s lives…post-children careers begun, their kids’ engagements and weddings, their grandchildren.
A generation of new is starting to grow in my circle.
I find the new in my grown children, whose lives are so vastly different from mine now, who spend their days in places I know little about, with people who know even less about me.
There are days when it seems as if everything new that will ever happen to me has already occurred – as if the future, which is all about me, about my midlife, is missing something. Where are the bright, shiny new school sneakers? The calendars to be filled in with endless activities? The growing, changing, new people my children were, each time I turned around?
This is middle age, this settling in. This is good. But even so, I’ll never stop looking for that new and shiny thing to get excited about. Some days I find it. And some days, I don’t.
Some days are as familiar as my husband’s face smiling as he walks in the front door, my dogs and my own thoughts.