Moving through the stages of life means embracing new roles

"As the 2021-22 school year came to a close at the end of May, I realized that I had made the transition from being a parent of a school-aged child to one who is watching her children navigate adulthood and that I am enjoying the new stage of their –- and mine and their dad’s –- life just as much."

A man wearing a blue and maroon shirt smiles at a woman wearing a maroon blouse and holding out a hand with a diamond ring on it.
One of the highlights of the past year was the engagement of Ann Bailey's son Brendan and his girlfriend Kasey.
Contributed / Ellen Gregoire
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A year ago, when our daughter, Ellen, graduated from Larimore (North Dakota) High School it was the final “last” that I had been marking during her senior year.

That last felt even more like the end of an era because Ellen is our youngest, and her completion of high school marked the end of a 19-year journey that began when her older brother, Brendan, started kindergarten in 2002.

That was in the back — no, I admit, the front — of my mind as I attended Ellen’s activities her senior year. From the start of the 2020 school year when she ran in her first cross country meet to the end of the 2021 track season when she hit the finish line of her last race and in between them at the band and choir concerts, parent-teacher conferences and awards banquets, I mentally checked the events off my “last” list.

As the 2021-22 school year came to a close at the end of May, I realized that I had made the transition from being a parent of a school-aged child to one who is watching her children navigate adulthood. I also realized that I am enjoying the new stage of their – and mine and their dad’s – lives just as much.

As I was reflecting on the past year, I realized that I marked many “firsts.”


The new chapter of my life kicked off in August when Brian, Ellen and I went to Aberdeen, South Dakota, to meet the family of our oldest son Brendan’s then-girlfriend Kasey. I had traveled to several South Dakota cities over the years for story interviews but hadn’t been to Aberdeen and enjoyed getting to know Kasey’s family as they showed us around the sights, including Storybook Land. The “Wizard of Oz” theme at Storyland was a highlight for me, and I couldn't resist skipping down the yellow brick road and getting my picture taken with Dorothy and Toto.

My new adventures continued in September when I accepted a job with Agweek. It was the first time in many years that I had a job in which I could write exclusively about my favorite topic — agriculture — and it felt like I had come home after a long journey.

A month after my return to Agweek, Brendan, got engaged to Kasey, and I was honored to have the new experience of witnessing a proposal. Brendan asked Kasey to marry him while they were visiting us at our farm, and I was able to see their excitement and love for one another when she said “Yes!”

A month later, our entire family gathered in California to celebrate Thanksgiving with Thomas, our younger son, who is a Marine stationed at San Mateo, Camp Pendleton. It was the first time that the school schedule didn’t dictate when Brian and I could take a vacation, and we enjoyed getting away from the grayness of North Dakota in November to spend time in still-green, sunny California.

Ann Bailey and her family spent Thanksgiving 2021 in southern California at the home of her son Thomas' girlfriend Janelle.

We also met, for the first time, the family of Thomas’ girlfriend Janelle and ate Thanksgiving dinner at their home. After nearly 25 years of hosting Thanksgiving, it was nice to relax and visit with Janelle’s parents on the holiday that I usually had spent cooking for 25 guests.

During 2022, my “firsts” have continued when I decided to get serious about losing the extra pounds I’ve been carrying around for the last several years. I signed up in February for a nutrition program and began meeting with a dietitian/coach to help me transition to healthier eating habits and a more physically active lifestyle.

Three months later, I am lighter in weight and emotionally uplifted by how healthy I feel.

It also has warmed my heart this year to see Ellen begin her journey through college and balance academics, classroom observations for her Early Childhood Education major, and coaching high school track. The organizational skills and study habits she developed in high school prepared her well for her first year of college, and she excelled in her classes.


A woman in a black jacket holds timing devices at a track meet.
Ellen Gregoire, who was assistant Larimore (North Dakota) High School track coach in 2022, timed running events during one of the team's meets.
Contributed / Brian Gregoire

From being part of life-changing events of family members, to traveling, to celebrating victories of my own, the past year has been one of rewarding firsts. I didn’t realize just how much my attitude had changed from those melancholy days of “lasts” until the other day when Ellen told me that she would be going early that afternoon to coach track because her athletes got out of school at 1 p.m. that day.

The reason they were getting out early? It was the last day of school. And I didn’t know or care.

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, North Dakota, that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or

Related Topics: RURAL LIFE
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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