Mother's Day last year
Being an empty-nester is a very interesting thing. On many levels. The transition is odd, difficult, sad, stretching, freeing, and confusing, just to name a few. I can't believe my daughter has completed her first year of college, she'll be home in two days for the summer. And with Mother's Day approaching, it has got me thinkin introspectively, of course.
I remember hiding out for a couple of weeks when she left last Fall. The pain was that of a loss. It hurt so much to let her go, but I had only let her go physically when I, like in the movies, waved goodbye out my car window with tears flooding my face as she walked up the pavement on into her dormitory. Literally the hardest thing I've ever had to do. So I thought.
I mentioned how becoming an empty nester is interesting. And odd. This is why. The transition is something you can not anticipate. It is something that you can't fully plan for in your heart, (well maybe that's true for most tough, beautiful moments), and one has no idea what is ahead of them as they are led up to it. My daughter's High School years were very very busy and involved. She probably had her hands in 10 or more things, so that meant that I was busy. Regardless of only having one child, she probably made up for it in all that she was involved in. Ok, maybe not. But it was busy. Sure I missed a good chunk of it when I was laid up for about 4 years, but there were some things during that time I could go to. But as you can imagine, her leaving for college, left my husband and I with little to do. One example of the odd transition.
We miss going to the High School, we miss seeing her perform in choir, band and dance. We miss seeing her be an evident positive person in other kids' lives by being a mentor through Link Crew. We miss getting letters in the mail of 'congratulations your daughter has been chosen for.....' gosh how we miss those letters.
We miss supporting all the things she said "Yes" to, like speaking at events at the High School on a weeknight. I mean honestly, that's just only the school part I miss.
I am still a Mother, even though I don't attend these activities any longer.
Then there's the evidence of her being around the house that I miss. I miss her walking through the door everyday at 3:00p, yelling "Mama!!!!". She did this every. single. year. and every. single. day if she didn't have play practice. And during the driving years, depending on who was dropping her off in our drive-way, I knew by the sound of the car--I'd be prepared to hear her walk in the door!
I miss tripping over her back-pack--no really, I do!
I miss her helping me out around the house and seeing how dedicated she was to her chores. And let me tell you, she was. This girl could do chores!
I miss all the kids hangin out in our living room.
I miss her snuggling our dog Nell's. I miss hearing the loud music come from downstairs. I miss hearing the doors closing downstairs, indicating that she was coming upstairs.
I miss the runs to DQ, coffee shops, and running errands together.
I miss the disputes, because that meant we were intentionally in relationship.
I miss teaching the lessons, but more so I miss her asking me to teach her one.
I miss the tears, the laughter, and even the rudeness because that meant she was growing up, and changing.
I miss the touch. The talks. I miss hearing about all the drama at school--and yes, I listened.
I miss hearing, believe it or not, "What's for dinner?!" or "I"m hungry!"--OK, maybe I don't miss that.
I miss her charm, hunger for goodness that is obvious everyday in her life, I miss the innocence, and I miss her voice.
I am still a Mother, even though these things aren't in my life every single day anymore.
When I look back I realize that I didn't really let her go that day we said good-bye at the campus. Letting go came in the next months. I remember the first, second and third weekends and even beyond that she was at school, I would grab my cell phone, and my husband would ask, "What are you doing?" And I'd respond, "I have to call her, I need to know where she is, and if she's at a party and if she's drinking and who she's with...." And he said, "Gina, I'm sorry, but no you don't." I insisted, "I HAVE to know these things (tears fill my eyes even today as I write this), I can't go to sleep until I know."
Physically letting her go was more painful than I could ever have imagined. Little did I know that letting her go emotionally would be even tougher.
He just held me. Said it was going to be alright. He really walked me through some of those months. Because that's how long it lasted I'd say, about 2 months. The pain lessened, but my wanting to call her the way I did, lasted a long time. My husband helped a lot because he told me about his experience in college, and encouraged me in ways I hadn't thought of, because I didn't go to college. He was such a source of encouragement that I needed.
For the first time in my life, my daughter was "out of my control". She wasn't under my care any longer and that was extremely un-fun to say the least. It was a form of torture. I know that in all the years she was under my care there were no guarantees that she was safe, or well or that I couldn't fully control her and I didn't try to. I'm just saying once your kids are out of your care, they are their own. You start to see this transition around the age of 17, and it wipes you on your butt. When I first saw those changes in my daughter, it was devastating for me, because I was taking it personal. I did write about that here. I learned to see my kid as a human, as a person, not just my child. There is a difference.
I had to learn to let go. And let me tell you. I did not want to. I was very resistant to letting go but I found it was harmful to not only myself, but to my daughter. It was crucial that I let go.
“Letting go doesn't mean that you don't care about someone anymore. It's just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” Deborah Reber
I knew for my well being and for hers, I needed to let go of what once was. I needed to accept. Accept is a verb. I needed to accept this new phase I was entering into, and it was not pretty. Internally and externally I cried out and it was heartbreaking! Like I listed earlier, there was so much I missed, but just in general, I missed my role as a mother. I missed mothering on a daily basis. I was pretty darn good at it. I've always been an intentional person, and a relational person, and I was no different as a mother. My aim and goal for 18 years was to shape this girl into the most beautiful human being I possibly could. And when she left, I was out of sorts. I had "prided" myself on doing so well as a mother. Maybe a little too much if I'm honest. But, I was good, great, at being her mom. Our bond is so strong.
I am still a Mother even though I am not a mom in the same ways.
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” Ann Landers
I finally had turned a corner and embraced this new era of mothering! It might have taken 6 months, but I did! And it has been a beautiful communion--what my daughter and I have developed since. I see my daughter living out what she was taught and coming into her own. I see her making poor choices along the way too, but that's all part of the journey for her as she faces each day as a new adult. Seeing her come through those poor choices on the other side is the real beauty! She's living life! If she didn't have problems, she wouldn't be living.
I'm learning the new ebb and flows of being a parent to an adult child--and although I miss many things--I have accepted what lies ahead. And I'm excited!
I can't deny that she still needs me and that I love that. I still need my parents and I'm 40 years old. Settling into my new role has not been easy and has not come without some kicking and screaming, but that happens anytime we force something that is unnatural. I mean when a baby bird hatches, it doesn't stay in the nest, it eventually flies away, and the mama bird allows it to. She knows it has to leave. She knows his time has come to fly, and soar--to try to make it out there with his own two wings. And that is exactly what I have done. And I'm grateful to being flying, and soaring right next to her.