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Parenting, Wishes, And Wine

Five questions Tammi Kudra with daughter Dakota at graduationI caught up with my friend and fellow mom Tammi Kudra just after she’d returned to Oakhurst from taking her oldest daughter Dakota to Southern California for her sophomore year at college.

We asked Tammi five questions about what it’s like to see your kids become independent and she had a lot to say.

SNO: This time of year people are sending their kids off to college and you have experience with that. Can you first tell us about your family and who is where?

Tammi: My oldest daughter, Dakota, is a sophomore in college and she’s 19. My middle daughter, Delaney, is a senior who is 17, and my son CJ is a junior in high school and he’ll be 16 in September.

SNO: What are the feelings and emotions you have gone through as your daughter has gone to college for her first year, come back and gone again and you have another leaving in a year and your son not far behind?

Five questions Tammi Kudra with daughter DakotaTammi: When summer was over and the kids would go back to school I did a big “Woo hoo!” Finally, me time! Which is fine — we all need me time.

The day I had to register my oldest for her senior year in high school I did it alone because she was in Dallas. After all the paper work was done and I was walking back to the car, it hit me that it was the last time I would ever register her for school.

I teared up, then sat in my car and cried, which pretty much sums up the rest of the school year for me. There was no “Woo hoo.” Instead of enjoying her senior year I went into this emotional spiral. For me it was all about her “lasts.” Her last football game, her last film project, her last film festival her last dance, and so on.

As she was getting her acceptance letters from universities I would buy her a fancy cupcake and as she was feeling accomplished and proud reading the letters and eating her cupcakes, I was feeling the dread. She finally settled on a university 250 miles away to study film.

Five questions Tammi Kudra daughter Dakota with cupcakeWhen she received her cap and gown for high school graduation she hung them in my closet. I didn’t want to see that so I hung them in her closet. We played this game for several weeks ’til that darn cap and gown stayed in my closet, an everyday reminder.

After graduation, I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer. Instead, I was savoring every moment starting the day after she left for her job high up in the mountains at a pack station. She came home for a couple days, and then came the day to take her to college. Ugh! I was trying to remain calm and show the proud parent on the outside and meanwhile, I was rearranging organs on the inside. While she had to go check in and take a test I got everything unpacked and put away in her dorm room thinking, “How is she going to survive?”

This girl grew up in a small country town where everyone knows everyone. She thought riding on a department store escalator was fun, and jumping a horse over a fence was no big deal. She was never a city kid, never cultured. We size up a pickup truck by how much hay we can get into it. We don’t go to gyms for exercise, we take hikes. We plan out our trip to town because it’s 16 miles away from where we live. Our entertainment is going to the lake, farmers markets , rodeos and out into the beautiful national park at our disposal. The city is a whole new way of life.

She was so excited. I cried all the way home.

Five questions Tammi Kudra daughter Dakota in dormThen soon she was home for the holidays. Yay! She had a month home for the holidays and I was so excited. I had been keeping myself busy with two jobs, and I took up painting and adult stress-relief coloring (with wine of course). So she breaks up her time with me, other family and friends. It goes by way too fast. Then that dreadful day comes yet again. This time I take her sister with us, hoping she can keep me entertained for the ride home, as the two laugh at me cause I’m tearing up again.

Okay, so this is where I tell you why Jesus turned water into wine.

Water does nothing to help this situation, not even with the prettiest lemon wedge in it. Jesus decided us moms needed something better like a wine for different emotions. A Cabernet for getting through senior year. A Merlot for after the long drive back from college. A Zinfandel because she called you. A Pinot Grigio because she sent you a pic. Then back to the Cab. Thanks, Jesus!

Five questions Tammi Kudra with daughter Dakota at collegeAs the days passed, it didn’t get easier. I think about how much she has grown up, and she’s making very good decisions and becoming independent — and I’m grateful she still calls me for advice. Then she gets a boyfriend. Is there a wine for that? Yes, a nice sangria!

This most recent trip was a turn around for me being I had to work the next day. This trip I would be driving back alone. On the way down I was very emotional and the I wish set in. I wish we could have done more together, I wish I was home to cook a good dinner more often. I wish we could…

I wish we could have gone up to Jones Store, I wish I didn’t have to work every day. I wish we had more time. On the drive home I listened to classic rock and relived the time from the moment she was born until now. Was I a good mom? Could I have done better, did I give her all of the tools and preparation to deal with things herself? There’s s bottle of Pinot Grigio chilling in the fridge .

Now to deal with another senior year. There are a few things I learned from the last time. Be prepared and enjoy it with them. My last two kids are back-to-back — I won’t be getting a breather in between. Then, boom! They will all be gone and the oldest will be graduating from college.

SNO: What is the hardest thing about the whole experience?

Five questions Tammi Kudra daughter Dakotaand dogTammi: The hardest thing is sending your kid far away to college. If something happens I can’t be there. When she’s sick I can’t be there. Is she going to keep herself safe? I thought about that for six months before she left the first time. How is she going to spend her birthday? All these things go through your mind because you had the person in your life for 18 years always being there for her.

SNO: Do you have some tips for moms like me who will be empty nesters? Sunglasses so no one can see your swollen eyes, anything else that you recommend?

Tammi: Don’t blink! Don’t wait to do something with or for your kids, and live the moment. Their sophomore year of high school, teach them about life outside of school and living away from home. Prepare them for adulthood and make them do things that you usually do for them. So for example have them do what seems like a simple thing such as make a doctor’s appointment for them or for you.

The best thing you can hear is “love ya mom.”

SNO: So we end on a positive note, what has come out of the experience that is great and/or what is the best or at least tell us one good thing about this time in your life?

Five questions Tammi Kudra daughter Dakota, Delaney and son CJTammi: I always wanted to be a mom. I love being a mom. When you tell people you have a kid in college, there is a lot of pride that goes with that. My favorite part of being a parent is my kids coming to talk to me, no matter how hard it was for them. The trust and bond I hope will last forever. I love watching them achieve things — the pride in their eyes is priceless.

I’m not going to like the quiet. I’m not going to miss the dirty dishes in the sink or the toilet paper that never made it to the holder. I will always miss her singing in her room or the shower. I will miss him taking out the trash, lifting the heavy stuff, killing the big spider and making me breakfast. I’m not going to miss smelling sweaty sports clothes or having to buy tampons for her. I will miss ”mom there’s ice cream in the fridge for you, mom I’ll buy you dinner, mom can you pick me up?” It’s those everyday things that I have gotten used to.

Did I mention I hate change? Did I thank Jesus for turning water into wine?

Tammi is a 52-year-old single mom and her fake age is 32. She has pretty much raised all three of her children by herself with the help of the family dogs.

Compiled by SNO Managing Editor Kellie Flanagan

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