Take-offs and Tears

While I’m not one for the overly sentimental Chicken Soup version of motherhood, neither am I a huge fan of the trend of “bad” moms, who are supposedly putting a more realistic spin on being a mom by focusing on the dirty diapers, the whining, the endless drudgery that parenting can be. The reality, to me, anyway, lies somewhere in between.

Motherhood is like life, magical moments interwoven with the mundane, annoying and downright painful. And, let’s face it, unless we have an unhealthy need to have our children need us into perpetuity, most of being a parent is about letting go. Early this morning, as I dropped off my 25-year-old daughter (my youngest) at the airport to fly back to the University of Illinois where she’s working on her Ph.D., I resisted the urge to grab the strap of her backpack and pull her back into the car. I’ll admit that I shed a few tears as I drove away.

When I mentioned to a friend who has kids in high school that my daughter was coming home for spring break, she said, “Oh, I’m not looking forward to my kids going away to college, but I guess you still see them pretty often during breaks.” She had been dreading seeing her children leave home.

Yes. If your kids go to college, you’ll measure your life in semesters for a few years. And, an independent life will begin to unfold for them. To me, that’s the really fun part about being a parent. All of my kids lead interesting lives, and I get to hear about what they’re doing – many times, things that I never would have imagined. My son is in a career that didn’t even exist when he was born.

Maybe I’m trying to give some advice to you if you have young children. Don’t try to plan your kids’ lives out as you want them to be, but remember that they are individuals with their own temperaments, abilities and dreams, so it really doesn’t do any good to control or compare your children to others. Be fearless in knowing this.

As my daughter hugged me and walked through the airport door, I saw a self-sufficient, intelligent young woman. But somewhere inside of me is the mom leaving that blonde, 5-year-old girl in the kindergarten classroom for the first time. Or watching her start middle school and high school, and make friends with people I didn’t know – the horror! My husband and I have waved good-bye countless times as we left her on dorm steps, at apartment doorways and rent house porches. And, even with that little bit of heaviness in my heart that will always cling to her as my child, I’m rooting for her as she lives a life that only she can carve out for herself — one that includes me, but is separate from me.

Categories: Editor’s Blog