Letters from colleges are starting to arrive in droves. My daughter is a junior in high school and everyday a new reminder of how little time she has left at home arrives in the form of shiny packages in our mail box. Glossy pamphlets tout what each school has to offer and I see an excitement growing in my daughter’s eyes that I could, quite frankly, do without. It’s not that I dread an empty nest. When she packs up and takes that major step into the academic world, we will still be parents of a child under the age of ten, but I dread my girl leaving non-the-less.
I worry if she will be ready. I worry about the emotional highs and lows she will experience; I worry about boys, grades, distance and the everlasting need to hug her when I want to. Two more well designed packets came in the mail today and I trembled as I laid them on the kitchen counter for her to check out when she came home from school. I know her preference currently, and I shudder at the drive, the climate and hugging distance away. Unlike my husband, I am not a helicopter parent, but as the time nears to push my child from the nest, I catch myself holding my breath and taking in each moment. Even the eye-rolling ones.
All of this has been done before by other mothers, leaning out, letting go and hoping beyond hope they did everything they could to help prepare their child without the manual. Oh sure, there are a gazillion books out there about parenting, and while many are helpful, they are just like life, trial and error. I remember my Mama once saying that “You just do what you have to do in the moment and pray to God you did the right thing.” I know that letting go is the right thing, but no one prepared me for how hard this is going to be.
No, I will not miss hearing the morning out-of-tune serenade of “I AM up.” Nor will I miss the consistent need of a teen/woman/child to always have the last word, but I will miss moments. You know the one’s I’m talking about. The ones that take your very breath away at the amount of love and gratitude you have for being graced to have this very life put in your care. I had an unexpected hospital stay in November of 2013 that caught us all off guard. The recuperation period had both of my children showing their concern with a heck of a lot more attention to me than I was used to getting by them. My daughter walked by to clean a dish in the sink and hugged me on her way. The smell of her hair, the curve of her cheek, the very promise of all she is took me out of myself and found me marveling in the wealth that loving a child is. She looked at me funny, knowing that some moment had passed and then I told her not to worry. I told her I’d be well enough soon and back to riding her butt. She laughed long and hard, and so did I, carrying out the moment and making a memory.
Thinking of that, I was reminded of my stay in the hospital and of the insatiable need to still have my own Mama taking care of me though she is long gone and spring has long since left my step. Once you are a parent, it never ends, and hopefully, the need for a parents love and affection is always wanted, even long after they are gone.
From a different sort of distance, I still long for a mother’s touch, and from a geographic distance, I hope my daughter will still want mine. She will find herself in a world where she is becoming. The excitement of new ideas, her sense of self, all of this will be part of the process of leaving. It’s hard to let go, but it’s oh so exciting watching your child become who they will be.
I had always said my three main goals as a parent were that my children could learn to be content all on their own, be self-sufficient, and not need too much therapy because of my parenting. I know now that I missed one goal. May they always know how much they are loved. A little hug now and then wouldn’t hurt either.