The Blog

The Indelible Patterns Of Parenting

When I had children, I knew the rhythms of my life would change. What I didn't realize was how etched and ingrained the changes would become. The patterns of parenting have come to define my days and my years. I live by them even after my children have moved on.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

It is time to restock the "supply cabinet" at our house and fill it up with pens, pencils, notebooks and highlighters. A shopping trip for new shoes is on the agenda, too.

I don't mean for my kids -- although I will probably pick them up a couple of things along the way. No, nowadays I make these trips for me.

When I had children, I knew the rhythms of my life would change. ("You'll never sleep again!" strangers would gleefully tell me.) What I didn't realize -- what all those strangers didn't mention -- was how etched and ingrained the changes would become. The patterns of parenting have come to define my days and my years. I live by them even after my children have moved on.

Yes, the most obvious is sleep. I was a night owl before my son was born, but, as the strangers predicted, he wasn't. For more than a decade, I followed his schedule, and then his brother's -- up early, first to nurse and change them, eventually to wrangle them off to school. I felt vaguely jet-lagged for a while, a visitor to a time zone not my own. Then they became teens, sleeping long past noon on weekends, not getting to bed until who knows when, while I ... was no longer capable of doing either of those things. I sleep like a parent -- with one ear listening for cries in the night -- long after they've stopped sleeping like children.

Throughout my day there are parenting moments, vestigial pauses that linger past their purpose. When I stop short in the car, I still put my hand out, to protect a youngster who isn't there. I reach for Nutella at the supermarket, even though one son no longer likes it and the other wouldn't put that much sugar in his body, thank you very much. I mark their birthdays on the calendar and make sure I am not working late, even though they are as likely to have their celebrations with their friends as with me.

At about three every afternoon I wonder how their school day went. There's no more babysitter to call, no activities to schedule, and my oldest, a college student, hasn't actually finished classes at three for years. Still, my internal alarm is still set to old patterns.

And as summer ends and Labor Day nears, I prepare for a new school year. This will be the first when both my boys are away, buying their own supplies, using them out of sight.

But I will have sharpened pencils at the ready. Just in case. And just because.