I watch her, the youngest one with curls, readying her first day of school backpack.
It is just the right color, with just the right coral monogram, to fit just the right back of a young lady almost 12 years into life, I often still can’t believe is my own.
I ask the right mom questions in my head, silently: Did we spend enough time together this summer? Did we laugh enough, talk enough, play enough? Did I memorize her face enough that when she’s gone from me every day in school for hours I will be able to remember every second how sweet it is?
I’m not sure I like the answer.
I have learned by watching my friends a little farther down the parenting road: the different level of tough it takes to send a kid to college. I know…this is only 6th grade and not 12th, but everyday that reality feels grossly close.
My friend posts a picture of her daughter about to walk into freshman orientation and the caption underneath which says, “there goes my life” and I know this is just a statement to say I’m sad she’s growing up, but I also know it is the way many of us feel when our role of mom changes with growing bodies and we aren’t needed the same way we once were when they were small.
We spend so much time pouring into our kids. Good time. Precious time. Right time.
But in the process, often, we forget us. The one God created as a person, not a role. The one meant to do great things in life, great things for God, including yes, being a mom but not exclusively.
And it makes me feel pressed to speak to my other mom people and say to them in a way that fully understands, we have to have something else of our own before our kids go off and leave.
Not because it will change the level of love we have for our kids. Not to diminish our role as mom or not see it as important. The truth is, for most of us, being a mom is in the top 3 of our most favorite roles, ever.
But because we need to let our babies go when it’s time. We need to not pull at their heels like they used to do to us when they were little, project our regrets of not being enough of a mom when they were always around onto them, cause them to feel guilty for leaving us.
We need to, yes, cry our eyes out for our feeling of loss but then be able to get up and move on in a way that never forgets the memories but doesn’t hold them up as gods only in love with the past.
We need to get on with a fresh mission in life.
We will never stop being moms, thank God, but we also never stop the life mission God purposed for us as individual people.
And my daughter, the one with just the right backpack, will understand all this if she, too, one day becomes a mommy.
She will know what it’s like to give blood, sweat and (many) tears to a little body that grows big and outgrows the need to be taken care of in the same way as when she was small.
She will give her kids the moon and more and watch them receive it with open hands and take it with them as they walk out the door. She will understand that the crazy is beautiful and the hard of raising them then letting them go is painful but good because it is exactly the way it is supposed to be.
She will find out what it means to get over herself for the better of someone she loves more — be given a gift that isn’t really hers in the first place and what it feels like to have to give that gift back in a way that feels like someone has played a sick joke.
She will find out, either by understanding it early and preparing the best she can or by learning by fire: how important it is for her to find that something else in life that makes her blood pump and moves her everyday bones so that when the time comes that the door closes and a favorite role in the everyday walks away, she will have something else to keep her going.
~a cause to become involved in.
~heathy adult friendships outside of the home.
Our heart may walk out the door and take the moon and more with them, but that doesn’t mean we stop living.
It means, instead, it is a fresh opportunity to start.
(p.s. Please someone…remind me of all this when my firstborn goes to college and I’m not being so smart or brave.)