This Is What No One Tells You About Having Older Kids

I knew one day my three kids would grow up and not need me in the same way. I got my first taste when they were tweens and they started to pull away. I missed them wanting to be with me. Time with me was replaced with their friends and phones and spending hours in their rooms. I had a mourning period for sure but I knew I still had a lot of years with them. But now they’re on the cusp of adulthood, and I’m doing my best to soak up every second with them I get, hyperaware that my days with them are numbered. And honestly, nobody warned me that it would be this hard.

My youngest will graduate high school this year; the two older kids are already done. It feels like I’ll have an empty life soon, and that hurts. It’s ripping my heart out. When I think back to when I left the house, my mother didn’t seem upset in the least, and I’ve talked to a few mothers who are excited about the next phase and looking forward to having an empty house.

I know it’s normal and the natural progression of life with children. Your kids are supposed to become independent and go out on their own. They aren’t supposed to live with you forever, although I don’t hate that idea.

But the thought of waking up without my kids in the house is so hard, I tear up. I will never get used to not having dinner with them every night. It takes my breath away when I think about them packing up their stuff and leaving.

I don’t tell the kids that, of course. I never want them to hesitate or second guess doing something that feels completely normal to them, or hold them back because they’re worried how it’s going to make me feel. I remember how excited I was to go to college, and when I got my first apartment after I graduated, well, that was the best thing ever. There was no way I could live at home anymore. I wanted my own space and to be on my own.

I didn’t think it would feel like this, though. I didn’t know that I would miss my older kids while they’re sitting right in front of me. I had no idea I’d have to fight back tears when they talked about moving out. I don’t know why I thought I’d be a lot more prepared than I am. This is, by far, harder than their first day of school, or the puberty years when they pulled away from me.

I think it’s because now they are practically adults who are helpful and independent and we genuinely love spending time together. We are friends and I love getting to enjoy this part of parenting. Now that they’re older and don’t need me for much, I have newfound energy and can get to know and enjoy them in a completely different way.

It’s so wonderful and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to enjoy them like this. So, instead of letting it break my heart every time I think about them leaving this house, I am thankful that I have this very precious time with them.

It’s going to be over before I know it. I don’t have to like it, but for the sake of all of us, I need to accept it.

Katie lives in Maine with her three kids, two ducks, and a Goldendoodle. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, at the gym, redecorating her home, or spending too much money online.