dance in the rain
I’ve been writing this post since June. Yep, June. It was initially about my daughter graduating from elementary school, had some snark, but also had some sentimentality about watching my first born move into another stage of her life. The snark masked my fear. Fear that as she grew I would become less a part of her life, fear that time moves so quickly and that before I knew it we would be picking out colleges and she would be finding reasons NOT to be around me and think her mother is so uncool. All the things most parents face (I hope), and that, in all likelihood, could be summed up in a few lines from a John Hughes movie.
In addition to fear, what also made me stop writing that post was when it occurred to me that the next time my two children might again be in the same educational institution would be high school—Sean, my youngest, will be a freshman when Maddie, my eldest, will be a senior. And that’s only IF they chose the same high school. And if you knew them you would know that’s a long shot. So that made me very sad, so faced with starting off my summer with such a depressing concept, I decided to “save as draft” and forget it.
But today, Maddie started middle school and I brought her. And my heart swelled. For there is nothing in life that prepares you for the pride and anguish that you will feel watching your child become independent. Nothing. But let me go back further.
When Maddie was born, she was my first, as I’ve said already. You are scared, cautious, confused, you feel unworthy, unprepared, complete and because she was healthy, lucky beyond words. Or at least I did, but I was 25. I had also just lost my father quite suddenly, so I was convinced something like that could happen to this baby so I checked her CONSTANTLY. For example, I kept a hand mirror by my bed and while she slept I checked her breathing to see if she could fog it up. I would wake her if need be. You could call me neurotic. It took time but eventually I trusted she would be ok and I had another baby and was less insane about him. Ironically, he did end up having more medical issues but I was much better prepared to deal with them. He is now a healthy little leaguer.
Fast forward to today when as we turned the corner to walk towards her first middle school day and she grabbed my arm and said “I’m scared” … I immediately felt useful and ready for battle. Should any duress befall her path I was prepared with a knowing wink, an eyeroll, or … The tween favorite … A “whatever.” these are the weapons of modern day girlhood, you know, and I understood she needed me and considered me “cool enough” to go to battle with her. This is what every mother wants. And I had earned my stripes.
Ok, so turns out notsomuch. As we approached the gated yard that separated the parental units from their progeny and she spied another familiar girl from her past school, 1-2-6, there was a peck, and a “bye mom” and she was gone. Just like that, full of confidence, anticipation and excitement of what a new chapter in a young life brings. If I am being truthful, the “good mother” patted myself (and my husband) on the back for raising a self-confident child who didn’t resist this change and is well-adjusted enough to let go of mom. The “other mother” was wistful for the little girl from around the corner … who was that little girl around the corner? Oh right, that was ME. Projection is the face of my “other mother”… And she’s just yucky.
I’m happy to say my beautiful bounding now-6th graders’ “bye mom” was met with a big kiss and a “bye honey, good luck” and I dutifully watched, ok, stared, at her through the parent gate dividers and marveled at her from afar. I was overcome with pride and emotion and held it together until I got to the subway and then teared up.
As parents our jobs often get measured by the schools they get in, the grades they get, the awards they win, the sports they play…well. But less often we look to how well they are able to let go…and how well we are able to support them on their way. But if we do a really good job, our children become our teachers. Today she got a running start and I’m lucky to be following her lead.