I was watching a documentary on Netflix today called Kingdoms of the Sky. It has to do with the mountain ranges around the world. How the environment affects the animals, plants, and people that live there. It gave me a great idea for an article about when your child leaves home.
I enjoyed watching it, so if you enjoy documentaries, you might want to check it out. Now does me liking it mean something to you? Nope, I was just saying.
Let the Adventure Begin, When your child leaves home
The point of this is that when it got to the Mount Everest part of the show, it got me thinking. When am I going to climb Everest? When is it going to be my time to do the “impossible”?
Why shouldn’t I be one of those rare people, who train for years, and spend thousands and thousands of dollars to do what so few people have done? To risk my life in the ultimate test of man against the elements and climb the highest mountain in the world! This would be my time to show the world what I am made of, right? So when was this going to happen for me?
And the answer hit me. Never. I am never going to climb Everest; I hate being cold and I have this strange attraction to breathing without an oxygen tank at this time in my life.
Cold Hard Fact
Researching Everest should discourage most people from ever wanting to climb it. People die on Everest, and it is such a hazardous climb that a lot of the time they just leave them on the mountain and start using them as waypoints to guide other climbers. Not a way I want to be remembered; ‘Yeah, you climb to 22,000 and take a left at the dumb guy that should never have tried to climb Everest’. That would be me.
So I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am not going to teach you how to climb Everest, but what if I tell you how you have already climbed a metaphorical Everest?
Look at climbing Everest in a deeply symbolic way. Like you have to really squint hard when you look at it, kind of way. You, being an Empty Nester, have already done something spectacular. Being a parent is like trying to climb Mount Everest, being an Empty Nester means you have climbed to the top and lived to tell the story.
I know what you are thinking, how can raising a child and climbing a cold frozen mountain be in any way similar. Well, I ask you, have you ever had to raise a 12-year-old girl? If so I rest my case, that shit is scary. Terrifying at times even, some days all you can do is hide and cry, the hiding part is essential, you can never show weakness, they can sense weakness.
Parenting is not for Pansies
Most kidding aside, navigating the dizzying heights of parenting can be hazardous to your sanity and overall health. Being a good parent is not for the weak at heart or just weak at all. So be proud of yourself, you have made it this far. Even if you have not climbed Everest, you have climbed the Everest of being a parent, being a damn good parent. So here are a few reasons why being a parent is like climbing and conquering Mount Everest.
Getting there is the easy part
Just think of finding out you’re going to be a parent as arriving at base camp. Now you are finally close to Everest it looks intimidating.
Finding out you are going to have a child is probably the best and the most terrifying news you might ever receive. Yes, it is the best thing, but the responsibility of caring for a tiny human for the rest of your life is daunting, and we know it doesn’t end at 18, it never ends.
You are now responsible for taking care of every need of this child, feeding, medical care, raising and guiding them. It is going to be a long climb. Basecamp is where you try to prepare yourself. I’m going to stress try; you will never be 100 percent ready.
The Long trek to the Start
Icefall is the crossing of a vast ice plain to the First Camp. Crossing Icefall is like the first few years of raising a child.
Now is the time to learn what you are made of, to push yourself and get ready for the years when this delightful little infant can walk, feed themselves and start to create their own identity. Here is where you strengthened your resolve to put your child before all else, to push beyond what you thought you were capable of and braced yourself for the coming work to be done.
Because there is a lot of work still to do, this is the first test, and you are going to come out of it with a new strength a new resolve to give it your all and see it through to the end.
The Valley of Silence
Hell, I didn’t even have to make that heading up, that is what Camp one on Everest is called. And in this phase of childhood that is what it feels like, a valley of silence.
Those old friends you had, the ones without kids? Gone. Those long date nights? Gone. How about just sleeping in sometimes. Gone. Your life, which was probably once filled with friends and parties are now a thing of the past. You start to see what you have signed up for, and the price is not low.
The valley of silence is where you find out that besides a few close family members and a couple of real friends, you and your spouse are on your own. You are indeed responsible for this little human, but here is also where you double down and push forward. Silence? You can handle that, it allows you to focus on the critical tasks ahead of you, gone are the distractions, and your path is clear.
A breather of sorts
Camps Two and Three
Camps Two and Three are kind of like the middle years of raising kids. You have got your child from the infancy stage, pass the terrible twos, through preschool and in school. You get to enjoy watching them grow up. Seeing the progression of your child, guiding them to become them own person. Yes, these are good times, but that doesn’t mean that they were not tough times. I didn’t know if you noticed, but kids can find all kinds of ways to get into trouble.
I know I was a handful, I “ditched” school for the first time in second grade, just decided that I didn’t want to be there and wandered the town the whole day. Needless to say, I caused my parents no end of headaches, they loved me still and pushed on. That was just one of the many misadventures that I got into growing up.
I feel bad for my parents now; I was the youngest, and I shattered their illusion that they knew what they were doing. Keep this in mind when you try to scale “Everest” multiple times.
Keep pushing through this time and enjoy it as much as possible, because soon you are going to look back on it and miss it. You are coming up on one of the hardest parts of the climb.
The Death Zone
Again they give me such easy headings. The Death zone is the big push before the summit.
In raising children you are going to agree with calling this the death zone, this time is going to include those frustrating jr high years and first few years of high school. The death zone part comes in because you are not sure if you want to kill them or yourself in frustration for the crazy things going on in there, and consequently your life.
This is the time they are going to question you the most. You are also going to doubt yourself the most at this time. The phrase why do I keep doing this is going to run through your mind regularly, you are going to question every decision you made again and again.
Did I do it right? Could I have been better? Could I, would I, should I is going to be your refrain. But you know what, you repeated this to yourself in a mantra, but you kept moving forward didn’t you? You never stopped moving forward with them; you never stopped believing in them, who you saw them as and who you knew they could be. Your love for them is unshakeable, so you carried on.
The Highest you will ever be
The death zone ends, and you can finally see the light again, you can sit back for a minute and see the end of your arduous journey with your own eyes. The Summit. The highest point on Earth.
This to us was the last few years of high school and the first year or so after. The time when your child has listened to what you had to say, took it all in, found things they liked and things they didn’t like and formed their own opinions.
Congratulations are in order for this, raising a child that can think for themselves and take care of themselves right out of high school is not as common as we like to believe. But you, you did it.
The Final Steps
So it goes step by step, moment by moment you are getting nearer the end of your journey. The peak is almost within your reach.
They say that you have to prepare for years to climb Everest, that you have to spend large amounts of money, or that you leave part of yourself on the mountain.
All of these things are true, but you have invested almost twenty years in your journey to raise your child, you have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, you didn’t leave part of yourself behind with your child, you gave up so much of yourself to them and for them.
As you finally reach the peak and look around yourself in wonder. Enjoying for just a moment the beauty that lies behind you, you reflect on the good and bad that lead you to this moment, and you ask yourself, “Was it worth all the sacrifices?”.
For me, I know the answer, I don’t need to climb the physical mountain to find out. The monumental joy of raising our kids will always be our most significant accomplishment. And that is good enough for me.
You Did it Once, Might As Well Do it Again
It had to have been an excellent adventure right? We did it a second time after all. Most of us have more than one child, and as my parents found out, no two children are the same. They say that climbing Everest is never the same no matter how many times you climb it, raising kids is the same. Enjoy the journey!
What were your biggest struggles raising children? What were your biggest successes? Email us and let us know how you conquered your Mount. Everest.
Also if you have climbed Mount Everest, let us know! I bet that adventure was fantastic.