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Family Matters: Bittersweet Summer

WFTV’s Martha Sugalski on your kids growing up right in front of your eyes.

An Emmy-winning member of WFTV’s Eyewitness News Team, Martha Sugalski has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and she’s spent her entire career in Florida. She’s also a married mother of six children, including a set of triplets. You can catch her on weekdays at 5, 6, and 11 p.m. on WFTV, and at 10 p.m. on TV 27.

I have a confession. Something my husband doesn’t know or even my best friend. It has been weighing on my heart. I know it is coming. I’ve tried to keep it bottled up, push it down, will myself to not let the tears fall while hoping the lump in my throat goes away. You see, I am a tough cookie. Maybe 25 years of being a journalist, and all the stories I have covered and everything in between makes it easy for things to roll off my back. I try to find the positive in everything. Most times. This time, not so much, because change is coming, I am not in control—and I am a control freak.

During summer, we have no set schedule for the kids; we make each day an adventure. This summer was tough, however. Normally, my oldest son always spends his summers with us, so when he hit me with the news that he had found himself an internship at a law firm in Los Angeles, my first reaction was, “Ah, nope.”

“Are you sure?” I said. “What about our summertime?” He said, “I will see you for a few days before law school starts.”

Right then and there, I could slowly start to feel him moving into adulthood. Fading away was the boyish face and the teenager asking me permission to take the car to the movies or have friends over. Heck, I remember watching Barney with him as a baby. Yes, he was now heading across the country as a young man well on his own path with his dreams tucked away in his back pocket. Yes, I knew he would be back to the Sunshine State at some point, so I had to get over that pretty quick, because what Mom loses it when her 23-year-old son doesn’t spend the summer at home? Certainly not me.

I’m not going to lie; my heart broke a little, and it shattered a little more when it hit me that, come August, I would have a freshman in college. My quiet, 6-foot-3-inch, hockey-playing second son, Maxwell, was now on his way to his next chapter: pursuing his dream—which he inherited from his namesake great-grandfather—of becoming a pilot.

I have been able to handle Maxwell leaving the nest a bit better, because I went through this already. It doesn’t get easier, and it reinforces the fact that two out of my six are another step closer to being truly on their own.

So, add to my already bruised heart the fact that my first daughter only has two more years of high school. She is officially a junior, and we are now talking colleges and her future. The lump in my throat continues to grow, as do the tears, which I fight to hold back during those sleepless nights. All at once, she passed her driver’s test and proudly got her first job, which she loves. So, you can see how this summer trifecta is playing out—but wait, there is more.

The icing on this bitter cake are the “babies.” Our 4-year-old triplets, which I know are the last children we will have, are ready for voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK). Don’t give me the spiel about how it’s good for them and they will play with others and learn. I know all this. I have done it three times before. Some folks—meaning, those who have no filter— might say I should be glad they are off to school, as I’ll have more free time. News flash: I don’t want free time.

I want to hear them say: “Mommy, will you put your robe on? It’s so soft, so we can snuggle.” Or: “What are we going to do today? You aren’t going to Channel 9, so we can play all day.” Or even, “Mommy, how much do you love me?”

Those fleeting, precious moments, which time so thoughtfully gives us and then takes away when they grow up, have hit me like a Publix holiday commercial. So, yes, I am a mess. And for now, I don’t know when I will get over it. What is the saying? “The days may be long, but the years are short?” Well, yes, it is the truth. A truth that has hit me in the face like the humidity on a hot Florida summer day.

I know our children grow up. I get it. However, no one prepares you for it. No one tells you how fast it happens—in the blink of an eye. One minute, you are at T-ball practice. The next, you are telling your kid to clean up their room. Then, one day, you walk by their empty room and realize they aren’t there anymore. There is no way around it and no way to sugar coat it: It sucks.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s September 2017 issue.

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