In the first year of this blog, I wrote two of my favorite posts celebrating the birthdays of my son and daughter. Birthday posts can be indulgent, of interest to immediate family only.

But I love them and the children they freeze in words, even as time continues to march on.

My babies in 2000
A few weeks ago, my son turned 17. My daughter Karly is 15 today.

I’m on the tail-end of their living under my roof and I still feel like I’m faking my way through parenthood. In two blinks, they will be gone.

(Unless they’re like me and move back home after college and stay until their father gently ‘encourages’ them to leave.)

So. When will I begin to feel like a real adult?

On July 1st, my son hit a milestone, having been a licensed driver for a full year.

His provisional license has been converted to …umm…I am not sure what it’s called now. Besides scary. The rules and regulations governing a BRAND NEW Uber Employee have been lifted. Jack can legally squire others in a car and he’s been freed by law from a driving curfew.

These luxuries were prohibited in his first twelve months behind the wheel. Lawmakers, in their wisdom, knew that becoming a licensed driver is a life and death responsibility. So, they made the boy ease into it.

This got me thinking about the roles I’ve taken on or had thrust upon me over the years—important roles like Teacher, Wife, Mother.

One day I was not teaching, wife-ing or parenting. The next day, I was.

Without a twelve-month probationary period.

Perhaps this is why I still feel provisional…as a person.

Before jumping into our pool, my nephew Riley would stand, toes at the edge, and shout, “Best way to get used to it!” before hurling his entire body into the deep end.

I, on the other hand, lingered on the steps, the water’s chill raising goose bumps on my skin. To this day, I need time to adjust, to wade slowly into a fresh change of environment.

Hot to cold, dry to wet. Alone to….crowded.

Sometimes, however, we cannot inch into our circumstances.

The principal hands you keys to a new classroom. An officiant hands you a marriage license. A doctor hands you an infant.

Good luck. Goodbye.

Baby Jack was wailing as we left the hospital and I remember thinking, “They won’t let us go! It’s obvious I don’t know what I’m doing!”


The nurse wheeled me and my squalling newborn out the door, sending us both on our way. No practice. No restrictions. I simply had to do it.

Every day. Hour by hour. And when the minutes dragged, I cursed our lying clock.

Best way to get used to it!

I’ve been married for almost 18 years. Parenting for 17. Writing since I could hold a crayon. Isn’t it time to stop believing I’m provisional?

Even Pinocchio became flesh and blood, eventually.

I am a wife. A mother. A writer.

Stumbling and staggering to my feet, again and again, I wait for the day when all of this feels real.

julie and kids 001

Last Modified on December 27, 2017
This entry was posted in Life
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26 thoughts on “Provisional

  1. Mom

    Dad and I proclaim you no longer provisional at any of those jobs. You are, in fact, exceptional at them… and at daughter-ing, too!! (Once you finally moved out, of course.) xoxo, Mom

  2. pat starrett

    Well, said.
    Yep, even from far away you remain a special lady.
    And those 17 and 15 year old children are forever yours, wonderful!
    They are that exceptional part of your life that contains joys,
    challenges and gratitude that they are yours.
    Looking forward to hearing more about them every year!
    Loving cousin,

  3. Courtney

    The results of 18 years of marriage, 17 years of parenting, 35 years of friendship and a lifetime of writing show just how ready you are – my amazing friend. But I’m right there with you – slowly wading into the water…

  4. Mmhmm. I think the hardest part of every new role or phase for me is this period of flailing my arms about, caught in a tide of overwhelm, until I can finally paddle myself up to the surface, breathe, and get used to the sunshine.

  5. Diane

    By definition: “arranged or existing for the present, possibly to be changed later” Possibly but not probably or necessarily…provisional maybe but please don’t change, continue exactly the way you have been as a teacher, mother, writer, and equally as importantly as a friend!

  6. Kir

    I feel this way too but you expressed it so well for all of us who still feel like we’re practicing and provisional. Some days I am sure the infertility did it, made me hardly able to believe I’m a mother and then I wonder if it’s just pure denial.

    “I can’t possibly be…”
    I used to just jump in, the older I get the more I wade and wait and wonder. I wish I had the courage to leap more often these days.

    What a beautiful way to express it. For what it’s worth I think you’re a, wife, friend and teacher.

  7. Tracie Madden

    Oh Julie, this one really strikes a chord for me! There are days when it hits me and nearly knocks me over! Whose house is this? Are these two amazing Tweens really MY children? Parents really entrust ME to impart knowledge, safety, and care on their own amazing children? Oh my gosh…soon they’ll find out that *I* am simply a 15 year old in a 45 year old’s costume. (Fortunately, for ALL involved, this feeling passes as quickly as it came!)

    When my mom was my age, she had a college graduate who lived in New York. This shocks me. I can’t imagine being on that side of parenthood. She’d already gone through so many stages with me and I had come full circle into realizing she actually WAS right most of the time and she had been through all the adolescent nonsense just a few years before me.

    I’m so glad you wrote this and so glad to see that others feel as we do sometimes…but that we then JUST DO IT as the graceful, intelligent ADULTS that we are.

  8. Suniverse

    You are everything. (to me – sing that in Lionel Ritchie’s voice.)

    Love that your taking on who you are.


  9. Karen G

    Hmm. There goes one of my theories: that I don’t feel like an adult yet because I haven’t had children. Must be something else! Maybe 45 is the new 15.

  10. I wonder this all the time: when I will feel like a mother, a writer, an adult. I fear, sometimes, that I will wake up one day and realize I never enjoyed any of it the way I could, because I am always waiting for it to feel more real.

  11. I think we all feel this way. Some of us are better at hiding it than others. Congratulations on making such beautiful kids and getting them this far.

  12. I love this– so relatable . . . the feeling that things are quite real. Also, your mom’s comment was maybe the best thing ever.

  13. You are REAL. You are my parenting, writing, friend mentor and hero. I swear I am not kissing a**. Eased or pushed into it, you are doing a sterling job of it all. Truly.

  14. Julie: Go figure your human. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability and realness. And, yes, you are doing the best in all your roles. Flawed in your provisional perfection.

  15. Good Lord. This hit me like a brick. I feel this, too. Like I’m pretending. That I’m at a rehearsal for life. That someday the boss will come back to work and the pressure to be in charge will be off of me.

    But of course that’s ridiculous. I’m it, huh? I’m the boss.

    Wonderful post.

  16. Kim

    I feel like this too. I still feel like a learner in so many things.

  17. *****Even Pinocchio became flesh and blood, eventually.******

    As usual, a post of substance & depth.

    You, my dear, definitely have flesh, blood, and SOUL))!!

  18. Wouldn’t it be great if parenting came with that provisional period? I felt like I almost had that while the girls were in the nicu, but that proved to be terribly wrong once we got home. But it still freaks me out that a woman can have a baby one day and is practically sent home the next.

    It’s strange and comforting to know that’s others feel this way. And a little disconcerting, because I keep waiting for it to feel real.

  19. Finally, I’m on a computer and can comment the way I wish I could have while reading on my phone.

    I was recently visiting friends who own a few homes – and have renters in two of them, started their own thriving business and have employees, coach their children’s soccer teams, and remember to put vegetables and meat and a starch on their children’s plates at every meal. They were like real life grown ups. And somewhat intimidating.

    While I sometimes feel like I’m 22 with more aches and trying really hard to fake it. My children have long suspected I wasn’t a real adult. Their friends love coming to our house because I’m “a kid too”. It makes me scratch my head because I see myself working, enforcing bedtimes, packing lunches, and paying bills so why do I not seem like an adult to myself or those who are young enough to see through the facade?

    I wish I knew, but at least I know I’m not alone.

  20. Oh how I love how you write. I so feel like this too. Yet could not have put it into words. Certainly not words this lovely. So glad I am not the only one who feels like I’m faking this whole grown-up thing. Maybe that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

  21. Yes you most certainly are, and how I loved the beauty of this post!

  22. I prefer the gradual entry into the water as well. Although lately I have been just jumping in more. 🙂

    This is a beautiful crafted piece of writing. And tells me so much about you as a mother, wife and writer.

  23. LOVE this post and oh boy do I hear you …
    and the days where Chelsea cannot find a thing and cannot go to a counter without me … and at 16 has not even bothered to do her learners even though she did the virtual school and completed with a 100% – I believe she will just stay with me always, and I will just continue to learn.
    But the comment from your Mom … priceless and says it all. You are awesome, you have the stamp of approval xxx

  24. I might be a little bit in love with your mom’s comment on this post – and I agree; you are not provisional, but exceptional. And since Jack just turned 17 that “they won’t let me go because I don’t know what I’m doing” worked itself out as well, yes? xo

  25. My 18-year-old starts college in about 3 weeks. I still think of her as the shy, sweet, tomboyish 12-year-old that encouraged her mom to marry her new boyfriend in 2008. Ok, I have some allergies acting up…gotta go

    (great post)

  26. Duffy’s aunt & uncle never had kids. They live a few hours from us, in the middle of nowhere, and we try to visit as often as possible. When Duffy & I first got together, we brought our dogs . . . now, of course, we bring the kids because, well, at a certain point, I stopped being invited anywhere — I’m, simply, the escort to my children.

    Anyway, I’ve always felt like a fairly incompetent parent. With my kids, I just feel that I run from one disaster to the next. I may have plans – stuff that I WANT to do, but I’m always reacting. Always stressed. Always putting out fires. At least, that’s what it feels like.

    But, visiting this couple, who have no children of their own, they constantly talk about “how easy” we make it look. And, well, I still don’t get it. But, I guess, when it’s thrust upon you, you either run with it or you fail . . . and when you don’t let yourself fail, you make it work, no matter how much it feels like the next little thing to go wrong is going to destroy everything.

    You’ve, obviously, made it work.

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