That’s how long I’ve been parenting. Twenty-seven years and nine months. It will be twenty-eight years of Motherhood on my oldest daughter’s birthday this fall.
“Motherhood” deserves a capital “M”
And yes, I capitalized Motherhood. It deserves a capital letter because it’s a concept so vast it encompasses, among so many other blessings…and not quite blessings, all of the following:
That little “are you insane line” between the brows
Peeing 14 times a day, not including overnight
Peeing 28 times a day, including overnight
And I happen to know that worrying is as everlasting and tortuous as labor feels in the delivery room because my Mom was a master worrier for her 58 years of Motherhood, and she told me so regularly.
By 2004 I had four children who relied completely on me
By 2004, I had four little people almost entirely dependent upon me for thoughtfulness, guidance, and care. Sometimes, especially early on in my mothering career, I would look at myself in the mirror and remember the younger, non-mom me and how many times I ran out of gas, lost one of every earring, overslept going to classes, even afternoon ones, play quarters on college Mondays at noon, and watch the Price is Right on Tuesdays at 11:00. In contrast, my Poli-Sci class occurred well across campus, ever out of sight and mind.
I also locked keys in a running car… more than once.
But I did it; just like we all do. I grew up, mostly, and raised three reasonably independent and well-adjusted adults now living beyond my borders.
I still have one 17-year-old left at home
I say three because still there is one, all seventeen years of her, standing before me in the kitchen just now, teenage angst and energy, sassiness, and I know everythingitis oozing from her as she speaks to me in fragmented English while looking down at her phone texting, no doubt.
Her way too tight and short, high-waisted mini skirt is making my right eyebrow twitch. And is that a bathing suit top? I remember when I was 13, I wore a tube top (covering an AA cup) to a friend’s birthday party, and my older brother asked my mom if she would let me go out looking like a hussy. Back then, I howled in protest. Now?
“Change your shirt.”
“Because it doesn’t contain enough fabric.”
These days, I usually walk briskly away after issuing edicts rather than stand my ground- it’s way more effective to rule from afar now that I’m weary and can conjure only modestly witty and wise comebacks with sagging, intermittent energy.
I’ve also started looking forward. I usually shun that exercise. Like most middle-aged people, I would imagine, I try to leave the past behind me — there is a lot of loss back there now-and view the future as an adventure bridge best crossed upon arrival. But somehow, visions of the near future creep into my psyche.
My nest will be empty come September
September will call, and I’ll wake up one morning in an empty nest with no lunches to prepare, sports schedules to coordinate, essays to edit, or family dinners to plan. My table for six will be for two. My laundry room will carry a lighter load, and my feet will be less burdened, but my heart more.
It occurs to me that I miss my children who left before, but I always found consolation by blanketing myself in the warmth of those who remained. In September, there will be no such security blanket to warm me.
I can’t help but think of my mother now
I think a lot about my Mom now and what it must have been like for her. I wish for her presence, not so she can comfort me, but to hear how she felt all those years ago when I left for college, the youngest of her three children.
I wish I had been more aware back then; I felt more compassion for my parents and especially my mother, when I was 18 and hugged them goodbye on a searing hot North Carolina campus in August 1983, but that is not the way of the world. And I wonder lately what my Mom would say to me when September comes, though I’m pretty sure I can hear her voice right now, in my heart where our love still lives and as this unique brand of heartache awaits…
We always know this day will come; even when they’re babies and it seems impossibly far away. But time flies just as fast as they grow, and there’s no armor for the loss of children at home with us. There is this, though: all the time in the world ahead of us still to love those babies-a whole lifetime of it.
Twenty-seven years and counting, Mom, for a lifetime.
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