If you’ve never packed up your kid’s belongings and waved goodbye hoping to see them again at Christmas, I’ll tell you, it’s not survivable. I mean, you’ll live through it, but not all of you.
It was twenty-two years ago now that I first became a mother. My daughter was born under stressful conditions, and with all the tubes and machines and hanging on to life, it was easy to miss the unexpected twin that was born at the same time. The twin was not a real baby, but it was a new part of me that did not exist before. I had no idea it would happen, but as soon as I felt my daughter’s soft head snuggle under my chin, a force, the twin, was born in me.
Being a mom is endlessly serving, loving, fighting, getting a different perspective, changing, growing, apologizing, trying again, crying, feeling irrelevant, feeling overwhelmed, feeling tired, feeling so much, laughing, cheering, showing up, washing, talking it out, settling down, figuring it out, and probably some more washing.
When my beloved children floundered, I was heartbroken. When my beloved children resisted me, I was wrecked.
Here’s the thing though – the twin was up to every task. The twin leapt inside of me and always prayed, fought, scraped, pushed, rose, and found a way through. When I was spent and there were no thoughts or feelings left to give, there was always the force inside that adjusted and adjusted until I could look at my beautiful children and connect in some small way. The connection was the goal. It was everything.
For so long there was a buffer between “now” and “college” when we would wave goodbye to the last child. Even this very summer there were buffers. There was camp, vacation, so many siblings doing so much stuff. She was unobtrusively packing in between all the activity, so it was easy to overlook. We scurried from work to the store to home, and she registered for class. We cooked and cleaned, and she donated things she didn’t want to move. We made plans and budgets, and she grew all the way up.
And then she went.
Now her room is much too clean, and there is a spot in the driveway that makes me cry. I shop in reverse, returning items I’ve placed in my cart because they are her favorites. At night I leave the door unlocked for her, and then, an hour later, shake my head as I realize what I’ve done. I roll out of bed, stumble to the front door, and lock it. She’s not coming.
People ask if it is hard to send the “baby” of the family away to school. Yes. Yes. YES. For all the reasons you’d think. And I wish that was the whole of it, but it is actually much more selfish than that. Mothers typically hate being selfish, but it is happening none the less. Because sending my youngest child away leaves me with the twin. The suddenly useless twin. What am I to do with this limitless force now that it can hang out on the back burner?
Looking back, I can see that I was comically unprepared to be a mom. I didn’t have the slightest understanding of what I was in for. But, it became such a glorious part of me that it makes all the other parts seem flat.
I know, I know. I’m still a mom and my kids will still need me. But, it’s not the same. It’s just not. It has to change and involve a lot of stepping back and letting go. Some of my least favorite things.
So, the twin has been dealt a death-blow and will not survive. I’ll live through it, but not all of me. I’m going to miss the constant momming so very much. I already know what I’ll miss most: those spontaneous connections that happen when you are sharing a space and suddenly find yourself comforting a wounded heart, sorting through drama, learning a secret, or laughing at something silly. Those moments are the artful design in the fabric of time.
And yet, I can already feel it – the twin. Stirring. Adjusting. Up to any task.