My husband and I have reached that stage in our lives when our children reach adulthood. Seeing our boys grown tall and strong fills us with pride, but it’s also a bittersweet time. We remember our boys as chubby babies and toddlers who relied on us for everything and were unstinting in their affection for mommy and daddy.

​Today, we dropped off our youngest at a hotel where he’ll be rooming with another military recruit. He will swear in tomorrow and fly off to San Antonio for basic training. My baby’s life as an adult has begun. My husband and I can only hope that he learned the lessons and values we attempted to instill and that he’ll adhere to them. We can only hope that basic training will make him stronger and more disciplined, not crush him. We can only hope that he’ll find himself and a career path that satisfies or fulfills him. We can only hope.

Our little boy is all grown up now.

God, that hurts.

​The house is quiet, except for one of the cats proclaiming that he killed the ribbon. Again. Guido loves killing that ribbon. Crickets chirp. A neighbor’s little dog yaps like there’s no tomorrow. And my mind reels with memories, mostly good memories, of my boys.

​My older son turns 21 next month. He’s a junior in college and has a steady girlfriend. I got engaged when I was that age, and the idea that he might do the same fills me with dread. He’s too young, my heart shouts. He’s eager to go forward with his own life, though. I understand that’s as it should be and wonder if my own parents felt the same bittersweet emotions of pride mingled with sorrow when my brothers and I each left home in turns.

​Where did the years go? Why didn’t we take more family photos? Where did I go wrong and what could I have done better? These questions are pointless, yet I’m sure most parents ruminate upon them. So, we plod forward and try to figure out what to do with our lives sans children asking what’s for dinner the  moment they walk through the front door. We’re taking small steps toward that new life for ourselves as the boys take big steps that remove them from our daily lives. We attend a festival or two. I went trail riding for the first time in three years–and rode my 32-year-old horse. (That’s another story.) I gradually shift focus from the kids to friends and activities with them.

​I never wanted to be the “helicopter mom” who hovers over her children. I wanted my kids to grow to be resourceful and independent. Yet I find myself a little lost without them. Perhaps I hovered too much for my own good.

​Regardless, what’s done is done. I can’t change the past. I can only remain steadfast should they need me in the future. Which I hope they don’t, because I know they need to be strong for their own sakes. And to my youngest boy, Brian, we will always be here for you if you ever need us. So will Stasia, because you’ll still be cleaning her stall when you’re 50 years old.

​Inside joke that, referring to the currently 32-year-old horse who will live forever to spite us all.