Growing up in central Texas, the idea of getting in a car and driving to another state in less than four hours was foreign to me. I could get to Mexico faster than I could get to any neighboring state. Texans are proud of their long highways. In fact, not long after you enter Texas from Louisiana, you’re greeted by a sign that says “Beaumont 23, El Paso 857.” That’s not being helpful, that’s just showing off. When I arrived at DePaul University in Chicago in 1991, I was not only entranced by the big city but intrigued by the idea you could hop in your car and get to Indiana in a relatively short amount of time. So one night freshman year, my friend and I were feeling spontaneous; we decided to visit Gary, Indiana, since, we thought, “It’s a Monday night; we’re adults now; and there are no rules.”
We headed to the snack shop on campus and loaded up on Cheetos and candy and big fountain drinks for the road trip ahead of us. We grabbed a map (remember, it was 1991), headed onto the Chicago Skyway, and hit the open road. The music was cranking, the jokes were flowing, and 45 minutes later, we were in Gary. “We’re here?” I thought. I hadn’t even opened my Skittles yet. “I was just starting to enjoy the ride, and it’s already over?”
That’s how I feel about being a parent. My oldest daughter heads to college in a matter of days. Just when I felt I was finally getting the hang of being a parent, at least with our oldest, it’s over.
Long Days, Short Years
The parenting cliché is true: The days are long but the years are short. There are days you feel will never end. Same with phases. I thought our youngest daughter would never stop crawling into our bed every night. As much as I disliked it, I didn’t want to fight that battle in the middle of the night. It felt like she would never not be in our bed each morning. But then, one night, she didn’t come into our room. Same thing the night after that and, all of a sudden, I forgot she used to do that. And somehow, all of a sudden, she’ll be in middle school next year. Just as soon as you prepare yourself for the “new normal,” there’s another new normal. And then it’s over. You’re already in Gary.