A year ago I had a house full of six children. But that all soon changed. In January my oldest (20) enlisted in the Navy and left for boot camp mid April. In February my second son (18) enlisted in the Air Force and left for boot camp in August. Overnight it seemed I went from being just a mom of six to suddenly a military mom, with not one but two children leaving in the same year.

Surviving TWO seperate boot camps in one year (not something I recommend that stuff should be split up over time kids), thats 8 weeks each of little to no contact with your child, praying every day for their strength, safety and health to endure through their training. Just as the two boys are different, each boot camp experience for me was unique. But having spent 3 months preparing for my oldest to leave, followed by his 2 months of boot camp, and then another 2 months preparing for my other son to leave and then going through his 2 months of boot camp; I just feel like I walked around in a daze. When we returned home from the Air Force graduation, I spent one whole day in a complete funk, analyzing my whole life….and then I woke up, as if I had been in a coma.

We were now in the countdown phase to the holidays. Due to the fact that both boys are still in training for their jobs, we are fortunate that they can take exodus and both be home for the Christmas holiday, seeing each other for the first time in six months (I can’t wait for that moment in the airport), and likely spending our last christmas as a whole family for awhile.

I decided it was time to take care of some of the things that had not been handled while I was in this “coma” state. So began the massive DIY home makeover in my home. I’m talking massive including replacing subfloor and building a new step and that was just the beginning. The kids now wonder what I’m doing next if I head to the hardware store, meaning what will I be making them do as well. I started on one end of the house and worked my way through, repainting and going through everything in each room from the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom until I reached my Airman’s room. I stalled for 2 weeks before beginning that project, partially out of exhaustion from the work that I had done the previous two weeks but there was another reason I wasn’t rushed to work on it. Although I hadn’t had an office space since our house fire in 2012, and I was extremely excited about getting this and the guest room ready for them when they came home, I knew once I started I was acknowledging the fact that they weren’t just away at college and coming home for the holidays and summer….they were in a much different place now.

So the day came and we are a month (less then a month) from their return home. I had to get started. We cleared the room (well actually I had my girls do it, because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.) and we started painting. I managed to get 3/4 of the way done before I felt the familar pain. It was all building up inside me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it back. And there as I sat on the floor painting the last corner the tears began to roll. I quickly took a deep breath and wiped them away, and tried to busy myself to avoid anymore.

As my daughter came in to work on the edges (she’s been kind of amazing through all this stuff, I couldnt’ have done it with out her.) I slipped out to get a rag from the kitchen. Here’s the thing, I never walk from point A to point B wihout getting side tracked along the way. Somehow I ended up across the hall, where we had placed all of his belongings while we painted the room. And there they were…his boots. While we were at his graduation he had given me his boot camp issued boots to bring home. He’d purchased another pair, but wanted to hang on to these just in case for the time being. I picked up his boots and just held them for a moment. Then I sat them down and went on to the kitchen. “No more tears momma, no more tears. You have work to do,” I told myself.

As I approached the cabinet, it all hit me, a years worth of major life changed and suddenly I fell to my knees. As I sat there on my knees leaning foward, face in my hands, my forehead brushing against the ground, I tried to muffle the tears…no the sobs that were now coming. I have no idea how much time passed, but it was long enough for my stomach to hurt and the crying hangover to begin. My head felt like I had beat it up against the wall. I got up and it all started again. Sliding down the front of the fridge I sat again in the kitchen with even more tears flowing. The door to the basement opened and as my youngest starts to walk into the room he stops, “Mom! Are you ok? What happened?” I said, “I’m sorry, mom’s just missing your brothers at the moment.” And with that he sat down next to me, leaned his head on my shoulder and held my hand while I took some more deep breaths, shed a few more tears until I could compose myself enough to kiss him on the top of the head and thank him for being such a caring young man.

When we have these little babies we can’t imagine the time when they are acutally old enough to be on their own, even scarier that my oldest who is now 21 is just 4 months older then I was when I had him….for the record I do NOT recommend that at all. But here’s the thing, we don’t get them forever. You will ALWAYS be their mother, but at some point, and usually not the point of YOUR choosing, its time to let them fly. Now is your time to be their advisor rather then their decision maker. My life is drastically different today then it was two years ago or even a year ago. But just as they are learning to adjust to being adults in the real world, I am learning to adjust to the next phase of my life. It won’t come without tearful nights (or days sometimes), but it will come.

Now when I look at those boots I will forever be reminded of the pride I feel for both my boys and the brave choice they have made, the incredible men they are becoming. And I will be reminded that just like their baby brother sat and comforted his mom, they were taught the same. They are kind, loving, intelligent, wonderful, brave young men; and though I can not see them everyday, every month, or even every holiday, I have done my job and now I get to watch them fly.