Thursday, October 29, 2009


Over lunch I was reading an issue of Oprah magazine, an article about change. In it, the writer talks about how "your sweet baby becomes a toddler, and before you know it she is celebrating her sweet 16, her acne clears up, she no longer talks to you, she falls in love with someone you wouldn't even allow into your house if you had a choice, she moves away and you hardly get to see your grandchildren."

It took every ounce of strength I had not to lay my head down on my desk and sob. Literally.

How do mothers survive it? Sure, it's slightly more gradual than that. When they are born you are EVERYTHING to them: comfort, food, safety, security, warmth, love. They develop and learn new skills, and soon they able to feed themselves and get themselves to sleep and for this you are grateful. But they still need your help in the bath, and when they fall or are sick you are all they want. And you are grateful for that, too. Before you know it, they are off at school, with friends you don't know, and you can feel it happening, her having a life that doesn't include you.

In the morning, when she is still sleepy, we snuggle in the big green chair, me stroking her hair as she relaxes and breathes deeply against my chest like when she was little, only now her legs are so long they dangle over the side. I know enough to be so grateful for these moments. I know that when I take her to school later in the morning, she won't hold my hand as we walk to her room, and I already know better than to try to kiss or hug her in front of her friends. I know that tonight when I come to sit next to her, she will pull away when I reach out for a hug. But if I sit quietly enough, not expecting anything, she will eventually stretch out her legs like a cat, her warm bare feet in my lap.

At the moment she still thinks that I am pretty, have good taste in music and that I am hilarious, most of the time. She still can't wait to tell me about her day at school, and the funny thing this one boy did at recess, most of the time.

Even as I can feel it happening, I am terrified of the disconnect. We are intertwined on such a deep, intimate, natural level that I can't wrap my brain around letting go of her. It would literally feel like an amputation. How do mothers do it?

And then I wonder: is this the reason teenage girls are so monstrous, so moody, so downright awful? So that mothers can, just a little bit, start to imagine life without the black rain cloud moving sullenly through the house? So that we let ourselves fantasize, every now and then, about what it might feel like to live without the eye-rolling, back-talk, slamming doors? So that a slight smile might actually form at the corner of our mouths as we envision the day they pack up and move away to college?

That is a genius bit of evolution, if you look at it that way.

Suddenly, I feel much better.


Maggie said...

Oh man, you've encapsulated so well what I've been feeling with my nearly 7 year old son. I want him to grow up to be independent and strong, but damn does he have to do it so fast? He won't let me walk him into school anymore or kiss him near school or snuggle with me. It breaks my heart. Meanwhile I'm just back at work after having my second child and I know in no time she will be the same. Where does the time go? How do people manage the separation. I'm also holding out hope that the teen years will help me get past this ;-)

Jamie said...

You said it beautifully and accurately. My youngest is 26 and we are expecting the first grandchild this week. So it goes 'around' one more time. like the ebb tide, it all balances out, and I love it! Thanks for sharing, and sharing so well.

tallulah said...

When I do think about it, I too want to sob like a baby. It is so hard to let our children shake their wings and fly. But it is truly amazing to watch them soar.

Dee said...

It is heart breaking, isn't it? I was so fortunate for years that 3 of my 4 lived nearby and that was wonderful. But one butterfly flew away and every time you got on that airplane after a visit, I cried.
But , oh, the memories of their childhoods---- of all my brood, are so sweet, so comforting and that's why we are able to remember them. The giggles, the snuggles, the cherished moments. PRECIOUS.

kate said...

Mom, let's not forget that a certain "butterfly" didn't really leave home until I, er, she was about 29.

That's what I'm hoping for with Anna! :)

BabyonBored said...

Uhhhh, so true! I am right at that period where I don't want my almost 5-year-old to age another week! I love her so much exactly as she is and I'm so so scared of her moving forward and away. God, I too hope she's a disastrous teen so I can tolerate her leaving. Now let me go cry.

Dee said...

OK, so you were a yo-yo, but you were gone-----um, let's see,----was I crying because you left or that I was afraid you'd come back-----again !

Jodi said...

Well I guess I'm an oddity. I never really had these feelings. I enjoyed watching them grow up and evolve into adults. I loved having them snuggle with me when they were young but wasn't sad when they grew out of it. The only time I sobbed like a baby was when Jake left for bootcamp. I couldn't stand the thought of someone screaming at him for the next 12 weeks, yet I was so proud of him being an adult and starting a new chapter of his life.

I'm very proud of what my kids have become and look forward to seeing what Adam will do!