“Kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.” – Barbara Kingsolver
“I realized when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” – Mitch Albom
“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother’s love is not.” – James Joyce
I have been a mom for about eighteen and a half years now. That time has been bumpy and beautiful. It has been filled with suffering and bliss.
I am pretty sure I have said at least 1,000 times in the past eighteenish years of mothering,
“this is the hardest part.”
I remember sitting on one of those exercise balls with my infant daughter, bouncing up and down while she screamed non-stop for hours and I thought to myself that nothing had prepared me for this experience. And when she finally stopped, nothing was more joyful.
I remember having a two year old and a newborn when the two year old came down with one of those horrific childhood illnesses (hand, foot, and mouth disease…who the fuck knew there was such a thing?). Her mouth was filled with bleeding sores, she ate nothing for days, and the pediatrician told me to keep her away from the baby because it could be really ugly if he got it too. My husband was out of town, I was all alone and I thought for sure I would never survive that very long week.
I survived many more illnesses after that. The colds, the flus, the stomach viruses, the appendix rupturing, the stitches, and the broken bones. I survived the first day of school, middle school and high school. I made it through long, mind numbing days as a stay at home mom where I wondered if I could possibly play polly pockets or tea party or hot wheels one more time without screaming. I made it through angry teen years made more difficult by a divorce. I crawled through months where my children barely spoke to me and when they did speak, they said hateful and cruel things. And recently, I got to do the senior in high school party phase with alcohol experimentation and boyfriends who “accidentally slept over”.
I am the proud mother of an adult now. I survived it all.
And with the hardest parts, it was, is…the most important and wonderful thing I have ever done. I am filled with pride, and love, and gratitude for the gift of being my children’s mother.
But today, as I lay in a hotel room bed, typing on my computer in the middle of the night because I can’t seem to fall asleep…I think I might be doing the hardest part.
Tomorrow I have to let go.
Of my sweet little baby girl. The one who made me a mom. The one who is now taller than I am.
The one in the bed next to me, wearing our matching pajamas we got today…so we could call each other and wear our matching “owl jammies” (her idea).
She is sleeping soundly, silently beside me.
Somewhere along the line she became an amazingly good sleeper. Even though she never slept at all her first seven or eight years. Yep. She can sleep through anything now.
She slept the whole plane ride here.
Today we shopped like only the women in my family can shop. From store to store to store. We got all the things for her college apartment. We spent at least an hour in TJ Maxx trying to decide which throw pillows would match her bed spread the best. We went with her choice and it turned out she was right. She’s got style, that kid.
And tomorrow we will finish the apartment. We will spend some time pouring over maps with her dad, trying to understand how she will navigate the campus bus system to get to class and to practice. We will stock her kitchen with groceries. We will probably have dinner with her room mates and their parents.
And then, at some point, we will say goodbye.
My GOD, what is the big deal…she will be home for Thanksgiving? It’s not like I am never going to see her again. She has barely been home for the past year, she has been so busy.
But I am laying here, with water falling out of my eyes and I can honestly say that this is the hardest part.
so far anyway.
The cool part about being a mom this long is that I have the perspective of knowing that there will always be hard parts and that they will always be worth it and that I will always survive them. I see women my age with their moms and I sometimes want to ask them if it gets any easier..but I suspect I already know the answer.
It changes but there are always hard parts…worry, stress, fear.
I am holding onto her childhood. I am struggling to let it go, to let her go.
Daily life without my lily…yuck.
I like her so much.
The beautiful, sassy, sweet, funny, curious, shy, quiet, loving, and intelligent woman she has become.
She is nothing like I thought she would be.
She is so much more.
A piece of me, but not me at all.
Aspects of me, but completely and absolutely different than me.
My excitement for her journey toward the next phase of her life will outweigh my own sadness tomorrow and I will hug her and kiss her and I will try really hard not to weep when I walk away. But I probably will. Sorry Lily, that’s who I am, a crier. Like my mother was.
And just like I made it through the hand, foot, and mouth disease…I will make it through the college drop off because that’s moms do.