I’m not sure how it happened, but apparently it is the end of August and I haven’t posted anything here in almost three months. It’s been a fun and busy summer, but I can feel it slowly slipping away. The morning and evenings are a bit chillier, and I’m surprised at the number of leaves already on the ground. The most obvious milestone in this seasonal shift, however, is the ubiquity of “back to school.”
Families come back from vacation, traffic picks up, shopping is a disaster, and my Facebook feed is full of shiny smiles, new outfits, and hand painted signs proclaiming the grade and school of each kid. These early days portend another year of excitement for kiddos and the barely hidden joy of parents who are grateful to get some of their own time back. It is a societal milestone that encourages families with children to stop, assess, reorganize, and hunker down.
One of my biggest struggles in envisioning a life without children is the lack of these societal milestones. You spend the first decades of your life waiting for summer to come or school to end, celebrating graduations, and looking forward to the next chapter. When school ends, the milestones are more individual, but often follow a similar pattern – the new job, the first date, the engagement, the wedding, the first house, the first baby – not necessarily in that order.
Parenthood itself offers a plethora of milestones: 40 week (plus or minus) of pregnancy, years of carefully mapped out developmental months, followed eventually by the first day of school. The rest is history on repeat. Your milestones become your children’s milestones, and ultimately your grandchildren’s.
When I’m feeling my bleakest about our life without children – which luckily is not as often as it used to be – I envision a future devoid of milestones. Yes, there may be new jobs or new houses, but the truly emotional milestones will likely involve sickness and death, not necessarily the happier kind.
While my friends who are parents may see this as a beautiful and beckoning blank canvass, I see a long line of sameness. On good days, it is a reminder to focus on the journey and not the destination; on bad days I feel like I’m living my life on the fringes where other people’s milestone are celebrated, but not my own.
Lately, I’ve been trying to focus on the journey and in finding ways to fill that blank canvass. There is pressure to do something great, but at this point I’d be happy to develop some truly meaningful milestones.
For tonight, I’ll celebrate the publishing of blog post #2.