Middle Daughter graduated from high school almost three months ago. Then, the summer seemed to stretch out before us like we had all the time we could possibly want. Now there are only days before she moves into her college dorm.
I haven’t really been processing this. I’ve simultaneously been staying very busy and purposefully refusing to think about how there will be another empty bedroom upstairs before the end of the week.
A big part of me knows that getting teary-eyed around her is probably the last thing she needs. I feel this need to be strong for her, as if that might help her somehow. At the very least, to make her not feel like she has to worry about me. About how I’m handling things.
Because I will be okay. I know this.
That’s the nature of being a mom, right? We bend and we bend, we weather the extreme emotional storms of every variety. But we don’t break. We might feel like we come pretty darn close, but we don’t… We get back up. And we keep going. Even when we feel like we can’t. Even when it’s the hardest.
For her whole senior year, the hybrid schedule, the Google meets, the Zooms, the quarantines, I’d gotten so used to disappointments and cancellations. We all got knocked down over and over again. I’d gotten so used to stuffing down and swallowing all the feelings, because I knew however sad I was, what she was feeling was at least a hundred times worse. I’d watched her be so sad so many times it broke my heart.
All those senior year milestones, the whole “year of lasts” that we looked forward to rejoicing in and celebrating, so many of them didn’t happen. The last show choir competition, the last big spring concert and theater musical with full audiences, the last dance competition… so many of those “lasts” happened in 2019, and we didn’t even know it. We thought we had one more of everything.
So when December rolled around and her show choir had an outdoor Christmas performance for a local senior home, I spied on them from behind the trees, in the shadows. Like a thief in the night. I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I cried quietly for all the performances they couldn’t do, for all the shows I couldn’t watch.
Senior year is like a capsule of time-released emotions- you get to let out the bursts one at a time, over time. The whole year went by and I didn’t experience the build-up and release to get myself prepared. There weren’t all those opportunities every month to let out all the feelings that go with watching one of your babies get ready to fly, to sit and share knowing looks with other parents of seniors, to pass some tissues to another mom without a word needing to be said.
And now the summer is nearly over and I’m left wondering how the hell this happened. How can it all be over when there was supposed to be so much more to it?
I thought I’d come to terms with my grief for this “lost year” for her (and for me, if I’m being honest here), but I guess I’m not quite there.
It’s all threatening to spill out at once- like every day for this entire week. How is my family going to deal with me like this? How am I going to deal with me like this?
Because at the same time I’m so unbelievably excited and hopeful for her. It’s a strange dichotomy of sentiments that parents are keenly aware of. I can’t wait to hear about her classes, about new friends and experiences and living in the city. I’m excited for her to be excited. I’m hopeful for her to find something she will be passionate about. I’m excited to watch her develop her independence and confidence. To learn about herself and grow into the amazing adult I know she will be.
This is happening while I’m playing that scene from “The Jungle Book” in my head. The one where Mowgli sees the girl from the village and walks out of the jungle… Bagheera urging quietly, “Go on, go on…” and Baloo whimpering, “Come back, come back…”
I am Bagheera and Baloo at the same time, smiling through my tears.
It’s so hard watching your kids take a piece of your heart with you when they leave. Maybe there’s good in that too, that you are always with them no matter what.
I have never felt so acutely aware of how little time I have left with my three kids. Even when Oldest Daughter graduated, I thought to myself, at least I have three more years with Middle Daughter, and Youngest Son is still so young.
Those years have folded in on themselves like a Twilight Zone episode.
Time is no friend to me.
I struggle to make sense of it all. But it never does. Time passes so slowly. Time passes too quickly. There is no time. Only emotions that I can’t seem to get a hold of….
I can only hope that I’ve done enough. That I’ve loved enough, and let them know it. That I’ve listened enough, and laughed enough with them. That I’ve been there enough.
So that they feel like they can come back. Because that’s what’s left.
If I’ve done my job well, it will be enough. They’ll grow and fly and leave… but they’ll always know where home is. They’ll always know where that piece of my heart will lead them.
And I’ll be here. Always.