I was the mother (and by was, I mean, I still am) who marched her kids to the front yard for a first-day-of-school picture and then cried as I walked home from the school or drove home from the school or, now, while my kids drive away to the school themselves.
This past August, we had our last both-kids-in-the-picture picture, because Sara leaves for college this fall.
But here’s the thing. She’s already leaving. And I’m already grieving.
Technically, she’s been leaving me since the day she was born, something us mothers know deep down but pretend with everything in us isn’t our reality.
But more specifically, she’s been leaving the past six or so months, it seems. She has a boyfriend. (As do I.) And our men have ended up being cushions for us, preparing us to move away from each other a little at a time.
I think it starts with the reality that through my divorce, Sara and I became closer.
And then there’s the layer that she’s my firstborn.
And a daughter.
And that she’s so much like me (and yet, fortunately for her, so very much her own self).
And I’m it on the parenting front. She’s just got me right now. And I think I feel the weight of her leaving as if I were two parents in one.
And the man I brought her into the world with, well, we barely speak (not that I’d want that in anything other than theory at this point).
And then there’s simply: I enjoy being with her; she is a delight to me.
And she’s leaving. And I can feel it.
She and I have talked about it. How the next several months are going to be an up and down struggle for both of us. We both want her to take flight yet we both want her to stay young and in the nest. We can’t have it both ways.
In fact, we can’t have it one way at all. She is going. And soon. That is our actuality.
And my job, in the next five months until we pack up her car and send her on her way, is this:
To allow myself to be sad.
To let myself feel every feeling I’m feeling, even though it’ll be yucky and hard and messy.
To acknowledge that this is the biggest transition I will ever go through as a mother.
That though she will be back for visits, a line will be drawn in the sand on that day, and even if she comes back to live with us after college for a time, it will never be the same again.
To know that no one can really help me through this, that this is my solo journey.
To hold her loosely every day between now and then.
To remember to hug her more.
To speak gently to her.
To show her and myself patience and grace.
To know upfront that she and I are both going to mess this up and hurt each other between now and then.
To try to remember that Jesus has her.
To try to remember that she’s going to be okay.
And to try to remember that so will I.
I’m not sure my heart is ready for this. And I’m not quite sure I’ll ever fully recover. Such is life.