July 16, 2006 A few weeks before my daughter was getting ready to leave for her study abroad program in Italy, I was so overwhelmed with many emotions. In one way, in a very big way, I was happy to see my daughter realize her dream and that I was able to help her accomplish this and then on the other side of that coin, I wanted to keep her home for just a little bit longer because I knew this trip would be the start of things to come, new things, bigger things, better things, things that would take her on journey’s she had only dreamed about. But there was one thing I could not face or maybe just didn’t want to; my baby girl was all grown up. The following are thoughts I put together prior to her trip.
Do I Really Have To Let Go?
I’m feeling incredibly selfish right this moment. If I had to be honest I’d say I’ve been feeling this way for the past month but admitting this for the moment is about all I can muster right now. And I don’t have to be honest. I don’t think I even want to be honest. I’m feeling defiant and stubborn. I’ve earned that right. It’s mine.
What is it about being a mother that drives me crazy? I don’t mean crazy in the Looney toon kind of way. I mean crazy in the thoughts that enter my mind when I know I should be thinking of something else, something more positive and more enlightening. In the end, when I get over my lunacy, I know that this was just a moment in time that I had to go through in order to make peace with whatever is troubling me but as I’m going through it, I feel so out of touch with myself, with the world, with everything around me that I want to jump out of my skin.
I run through the gamut of feeling guilty, feeling ashamed at myself for even feeling guilty and then I convince myself that this too shall pass and its all par for the course. Yea, okay, that sounds just about right but as I’m dealing with all of these thoughts and convincing myself that I’m being as matured as I possible can be, to the outside world of course, I find myself with a lump the size of a lemon in my throat and I dare myself to cry. I do this so that I won’t cry because if I cry, I’m afraid that will take me to another place I don’t want to go. Then I think, maybe that place is where I need to be so that I can be okay with all these mother demons. Who knows? One would think that at my age, I’d know better. I don’t. But in my defense, this is my first time, and we all know how hard and exciting first times can be.
I have friends with more than one child. I often find myself envious of that. I think to myself that they have such confidence in letting their child be on their own, grow and become independent and then I hear them tell me, “Honey, when you’ve got three kids by the time the first one is out of the house you are counting the days for when the other two leave.” And I wonder to myself, how can that be? How can a mother count the days for when their children leave? If I had it my way, I’d build a new home so that my daughter can live right next door to me. I guess when you are the parent of an only child you feel differently about these things. Somehow I doubt it. I know plenty of parents with a gazillion kids who feel the same way I do about my one child; if they could have them all live with them or close by, they’d be very happy.
I seem to remember dealing with the same frustrations that mother’s with two or three children go through. I remember counting the weeks till potty training was over so that I wouldn’t have to carry that extra bag of diapers around with me. I celebrated the day my daughter stopped drinking from the Playtex bottles. No more boiling nipples, no more stocking up on those plastic liners that always struggled to make the right fit, even when the the advertisement read it was a perfect fit. But I don’t recall ever wishing that she would hurry up and grow up so that I could have my life back. Once she came into my life, she became my life. That’s not to say that I had no life before her but at the risk of sounding like the other mom’s I’ve chatted with, once you become a mother, your life changes and it becomes all about your child. It becomes all about mothering. I’m not saying the life I had before my daughter was born ceased to exist, it was enhanced because of this precious blessing. It’s just that my priorities changed and I liked the change. I welcomed it. I embraced it. I loved that world. And yet, years later, I find myself thinking how did 20 years go by so quickly and where did I go? Does this make any sense? I guess you have to be a mom to understand. I remember before I became a mom, I would gush over a new born baby or find myself on the floor playing with a toddler and how often I’d hear a mother tell me, “Oh just you wait until you have one of your own, you won’t feel so energetic or so giddy.” And I would think to myself right then and there that I couldn’t wait to have one of my own because if this is how good it felt, then I’d want to feel this regardless of all the sleepless nights my child would cause me.
So I became a mother. And I dealt with all that was predicted would happen but I can’t recall one moment of wishing she would get older so that I wouldn’t have to get on the floor any more and play Chutes and Ladders, Barbie or watch one more video with Raffi singing the Wheels on the Bus. In fact, I remembered some of my friends telling me that children always picked the wrong time to want their attention and when you have a household to run, it’s just not possible. Why not? It’s your time. The house can wait but your child will grow and you’ll find yourself wondering where the time went. I can tell you where it went. It went into that pot that you couldn’t let sit in the sink because it just had to get done while your child wanted just a half hour of your time. And so what if it didn’t get done today? Why do you think God created tomorrow? I can always organize my dust bunny collection, but time with my child was always a blessing for me. I shouldn’t have had to organize any time with my child. I have birth to her to be her mom, not to be an appointment. It’s like I somehow knew the day would come when I wouldn’t be able to be a child along with my child and I didn’t want to waste any minute of it washing a pot or dusting away the collection of “Clean me now” written on my furniture.
The funny thing is that before I became a mom I got so annoyed at the many times parents used to tell me, “Just wait till you become a mother…..” And so when I did, and I experienced what they warned me about, while I could understand what they were saying, I felt it just didn’t apply to me. Oh sure, some days I’d get frazzled and by the time evening rolled around I found myself still in the same PJ bottoms and spit up top that I had on when I started my day but I always knew there would be tomorrow and so when my day was over and I’d watch my baby girl slumbering away, to me all that I dealt with during the day was so worth that moment. Of course, I didn’t look at myself in the mirror or I’d risk that rationale going out the window. But here’s the thing. These same women who told me I didn’t know squat until I became a mother were now raining on my parade. Because once they saw how well I was handling things, and that I was rather enjoying it, they decided it was easy because I only had one child. Now they were telling me once again, that I didn’t know anything until I had another kid. I waited all this time to “belong” and now that I went through the hours of labor, the stretch marks, the overabundance of hormones, the sleepless nights, the cottage cheese thighs and the two hung low saggy boobs, now I’m still not part of the mommy brigade? I don’t get it. Did this mean that I wasn’t a full blooded mother until I squeezed out another child? My pain, my emotions, my thoughts were of a mother, how did having just one child suddenly disqualify me from this group I so wanted to be a part of? I cried when my daughter received her first shot. I think it hurt me more than it did her because she doesn’t remember that little sting, but I sure do. I cried when the boy she liked chose her friend instead and short of wanting to shake some sense into him and smack him upside his head for being so blind, I remembered asking God to give me her pain so she wouldn’t have to deal with it. I remember all of her boo boo’s and her disappointments, so how is it that because she’s my only child, my pain, my disappointments, or my experiences with her are any less than a mother who has two or three children?
So I sit here now, watching her pack her bags for her trip to Europe, where she will not only study her favorite subject, but will be the house manager of her suite, make her own decisions and be on her own for the first time in 20 years wondering if having another child would make her going away easier. I don’t think it would. I sit here wishing that the school will call and say, “The trip has been cancelled,” not caring about all the money that I will lose in the process. I sit here feeling so selfish because as much as I want her to go, I don’t want to see my baby girl leave. And yet there is a part of me that knows I have to let go. This trip is just the first of many and I know that after this trip, I’ll be okay. It’s just getting through this hurdle that seems to be making me feel an enormous buffet of emotions I can’t stand. And as I write this I feel the lump making room for the tears that are flowing causing my words to be blurred but I know what I feel in my heart and blurry words will not disguise that.
I guess I’m at that place I didn’t want to go when I first started writing this. My throat hurts, my makeup is smeared and I’m locked in my room. If she sees me crying it will make her leaving so much harder and that’s carrying my selfishness a bit too far. I’m the mommy! This is her time. I had my time with her. I will have more time with her perhaps not as often but times that I will treasure as I did when she was a child. And I think back to the women who told me they couldn’t wait to have their children gone and I wonder if they really meant that or were they just being brave on the outside and crumbling on the inside as I’m doing now? My daughter asks me if I’m okay with her leaving and I tell her, I’ll miss her but I’m so happy she’s following her dream. I mean it. I want her to go out there and do her thing. I didn’t give birth to her to keep her. But I didn’t know letting her go would be so hard. Still, I smile when she asks if I’m okay and I know it’s because she too feels what I’m feeling. So we lay in bed at night sometimes talking about all she’s going to experience and when she gets to the part about missing me, I swallow hard, I look around finding something that will capture my attention so that I can get through the conversation and the lump in my throat won’t cause the tears in my eyes to over flow. And I tell her with all the trust I have in my heart that this is the right thing for her and that she will be just fine. I tell her that she will miss me for about a week and then her life will be so filled with wonder and newness that she won’t have time to miss me. And then she asks, “But what will you do while I’m gone?” And I realize that she knows I’ll be lonely. So I lie. I tell her I have so many dates with my buddies to explore the city that never sleeps and I plan to redo my room and I have tons of books I want to read and I go on and on until I’m convinced she’s okay with me being home alone without her and until I convince myself that I will be just fine with her going away.
I walk away thinking about how hard it’s been for me these past few weeks thinking of her leaving never realizing how hard it’s been for her too. Maybe this sounds crazy but it’s validating to know that this child, this beautiful child of mine, will miss me too. I always think about how much I love her but I don’t stop to think about how much she loves me. She has fears and insecurities that she will have to face eventually and this trip will be the start of that for her. Isn’t this what I taught her? Isn’t this what I told her life was all about? She’s on the brink of the journey I prepared her for. I find myself going back to a time that has been preserved for moments just like this. I relive the many nights I’d lift her up from her crib, just to hold her close to my chest so I could feel her heart beating close to mine.
I wonder if she’ll remember to lock the doors at night. I worry that she’ll get lost in this great big city and I won’t be there to help her. I think what if she gets sick in the middle of the night, what will she do? I won’t be there to make her tea and cuddle with her until she falls asleep. And then I think of all the things I have taught her and how far she’s come. I remember all the lessons she learned growing up. I remember how often I told her when all else fails, she’s got to believe. She’s got to trust that she can do it regardless of the obstacles. And then I realize that’s how she got to this point in her life; because of all the lessons I taught her, because of all the times she believed when all else failed and now I must do the same. Now it’s my turn to believe and trust and let go. There’s a part of me that’s counting the days until she leaves because I know the sooner she leaves the sooner she’ll come home and this ache of mine will go away. But there’s a big part of me that sits and stares at her in wonder. It’s funny how her going away is making me relive the moments pictures couldn’t capture. I reminisce about all the little things she used to say and do. I recall all the times she would ask the questions I had no answers to and I’d think where does she get this from? Now another part of this world will get to experience what I have had in my life for these past 20 years; joy, love, curiosity, courage and laughter. And then I think of the nights when she’ll be home once again, where we can lay on the bed, sharing our experiences as mother, daughter and friends. Where I’ll feign shock at the things she said or did, where I’ll share that I did the same thing in my day, where I’ll hold her hand as we talk about what’s next in her life and mine and I know in my heart that in order for me to experience this, I have to let go.
Copyright © 2006 by Sonia Agron
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