This year my youngest child went off to high school, and overnight he’s taller, stronger and more independent. All the qualities we hope to see in our offspring, and endeavour to foster as they walk the passage into adulthood. I’m happy yet there are bittersweet moments because as a parent I’m standing on one side of the door as they walk through into the world of tomorrow, I’m left behind. Their bedroom doors remain closed more often, the amount of physical affection reduced as they learn to regulate better and their peers are the place for more talk rather than mum and dad. As it should be, yet my heart strings tug for what was before, and the stark realisation that it won’t be repeated again. I will not bear any more children, I will not be sleep deprived either or drive heavy machinery under the influence of such dangerously little rest. Still the reality is like a splinter in my heart, and some moments tears well up spontaneously pinching me to be aware of the time we do have together. This time takes on an almost sacred glow: the spontaneous cuddles in the kitchen, ‘I love you mum’ phrases and time spent taxiing them around when they are a captive audience.
Was it always like this? Definitely not. Those early years, I was endlessly daydreaming of all the things I wanted to do or was going to do or missing out on. Now paradoxically, I have more time to do these things. It’s funny how we value things when we see the end of something. Thankfully we are not immortal.
A dear friend made the point recently that grieving is loving, it’s the same thing. I’ve been this process of micro moments of grief during parenthood. Grieving when they no longer want your company and simultaneously being happy for them as they go out into the wide world with eyes full of wonder and excitement. I watch my capacity to hold all my feelings. My belly jumps for them as they descend into their firsts- love, fight, peer exclusion, challenge; and at the same time my heart explodes with the love and hope for them to endure it all. This visceral feeling in my chest hits me as I am driving along a country road. My heart wooshes out of my chest seeking out my sons where ever they may be, silently and surely surrounding them with a mother’s love and protection that knows no end.
The way of a parent is to get comfortable with loving fiercely, a love that would rip heads off should someone have harmed my baby, but as they grow, the love is still as deep, but it is not healthy to interfere or fight their battles, in fact it is downright dysfunctional. So instead I must find a place to allow my love to run its course, and tend a garden dedicated to this love. My relationships with women at similar stages in their motherhood journey have become fruitful as we share the commonality of grief and change. I’m learning respectful distance allowing my sons space to come to me when they need on their terms.
As a prepare for this next phase, I am regularly allowing my grief its freedom and voice, to avoid damming it up and turning into resentment, which is basically unprocessed emotion. Resentment surely not, no way. My thoughts wander to the mother in law’s tongue, or otherwise known as the snake plant. How did our society name a plant as such? Coincidence? My hunch is that mothers feel deeply and unless we find a healthy release, these emotions can warp into all kinds of bitterness. There is no way I want to be that kind of mother in law, let alone elder or role model.
So you’ll find me, writing it out and spending this renewed free time feeding my soul’s needs. Dancing the ouchy bits and joy, two sides of the same coin, and by golly the joy when I see glimpses of the men my children will become. Thank you life for granting me this privilege to be their mother, and its gifts of pain and pleasure to experience. I pray keep them safe, but as life shows us all the road we must travel, they will need to stumble in order to grow, and feel pain in order to love. The great paradox, and I will be quietly here should they ever want or need me.