There she goes, there she goes again… ~The Velvet Underground
She calls my name…”Mom!” And she is annoyed with me most of the time, even though I attempt to be cool to reel her back into me. She doesn’t want to be my baby. It is hard, I admit it, this last year of high school, so notably, infamously rocky for each of these kids.
But here’s what they don’t tell you about divorce, when there are two parents in two separate houses, guess what? When the kids get older, and they present a reasonable desire to leave your home because they miss the other parent, you let them go…because it is the right thing to do. But you can’t help but to feel robbed. I thought this would be my last year with her up until about a day ago, when it never occurred to me that my daughter might be planning to switch households as she jumps another grade.
But I get it.
High school is torture and it isn’t just me. It is because emotions course so close to the surface, sexuality befuddles on an hourly basis, growing up becomes inevitable, even if you don’t want to. I get it, baby girl.
I still don’t want to adult.
Don’t call me that. I am not your baby anymore. I can hear her voice, chiding me, pestered.
She has always spoken her truth and I am going to miss the last year of her childhood. Am I allowed to feel this way when her father has missed far more than me? But is that why it hurts knowing this is another milestone that she doesn’t want me there for? I know the goal is independence. I know she is smart, bright, bold and a crusader. She can cook, clean, watch after children and this year, learned how to save lives. She aced her EMR class and can work as a lifeguard. Every day she lives the definition of miracle.
We are different in many ways, but in some ways we are the same. Scrabbling for control and I didn’t want it to be this way. I wanted she and I to learn to talk together like two adults figuring out a puzzle at the dining room table. But we can’t talk yet. We still yell.
I wish we could stop it.
And when I don’t, hell breaks loose because I am too nice and concerned with hurting her feelings and so we ping pong back and forth. It is not her fault. I don’t do the teens years well, although I love them. I adore hearing thoughts from their unfurling minds. I treasure listening to their dreams and knowing the entire road is rolled out before them. I celebrate when they fly, but inside I can never get used to the loss of their childhoods.
I have been through divorces and there were some painful aspects to it. Mourning the loss of hope, the death of love, watching it fade away like scraps of paper twirling in the wind and then quickly out of sight. But to see my children in the door frame and then out. In a blink. And then they are calling a different residence home, I can’t adjust to the fact they aren’t one floor above getting up to all sorts of adventures. I can’t adjust to the quiet and maybe that is why the dog licking his lips is deafening when it is he and I alone in the room. I thought, when they were young, that I would rejoice over the freedom of their leaving, but just as I was tethered to them when they departed for school, play dates and other kid activities, now they are tethered to me. And I worry and fret over them, until they tell me they are fine. They have come through the hell of teenaghood and arrived at the bud of adulthood. I can see the lessons I have taught them come alive. To try new things and be adventurous. To speak their mind and fight for injustice, to follow their hearts no matter where they may lead, as long as they are happy.
But is my little one ready for this? How can she be when I am not? When she boldly strides out the door, assured of her next step and I crumble hanging by the window, wondering wondering…could I have kept her here? Is it right to even try, when she wants fulfillment? When she would like to come home to her dad and I get to rattle around the house—the place of visitation.
When they were little, older parents lied to me and told me it would go fast, and some nights it was so hard taking care of their three young lives that I would sit on the couch and cry after midnight, obsessing over behavior, their psyches, their passions, their joy. Did they have enough? Were they warm? Did they never doubt they were adored? I wanted them to never question it for a day in their lives and to know no matter where they went off to, they could find me waiting at home.
Now it is gone, and I did it wrong, wishing for time to speed up so I could sleep without waiting to hear the moan of a sick child, the tears of scared child, to stop a child intent on sleepwalking, and then I began to doubt if the steel locks on the front door could perplex them enough in their sleep state to keep them inside and safe.
My kids have seen me stumble so many times, have seen their families implode, have moved, have learned fear and courage and sadness and longing. They have been the most loved in the history of forever.
I wish they could come home.
I wish I had worried about the right things.
Who cared about the grout on that stupid ill-conceived kitchen table?
Who cared about the tiny erasers washed in their pockets?
Who cared if their school pictures were perfect?
Who cared if they hugged you with dirty hands?
Who cared if they snuck a cookie here and there?
I centered on order and cleanliness and trying to stay on top of it, while killing myself to make my house look like a glossy magazine page.
Who cared if they fell asleep on the couch after school?
Who cared if we ate sweets for breakfast sometimes, or they begged for more time to play once in awhile?
My craving for order interrupted their childhood bliss and giggles.
I did strive for balance, playing in the yard with water guns, blowing bubbles on the stoop and drawing with chalk. I did fill up the pool, pump up bike tires, stir up homemade popsicles, made them homemade costumes and birthday cakes. But I did it all with a shake and tremble.
Not because I was stressed everything needed to be perfect, but because it would never be for my kids. And I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know what functional looked like and so I harped on the aesthetic.
I hope they know, no matter what, my heart was always in the right place, even if I parented in fear on the rough days.
I have never felt more joy and I can’t believe my time living as a mother with a full-time kid is coming to an end.
Because I want her to be happy, because I don’t want to fight her, even if it means I will live with a void in my chest.
This is what being a mother is about…learning to survive with all and then…with nothing but an aching echo of memories you hope are rosy.
Nothing but the wisps of your children breezing in the door, somehow appearing like the kids you used to know. And if you squint you can see it. Their bright green eyes, duck feather-worthy hair, their chubby cheeks and impossibly vivid smiles. So much backyard wandering, so much front yard sunbathing, so much playground romping on their yellow and tangerine horizons.
And when the sun climbs the sky the very next day they are gone.
As if you had simply turned to go back inside the house. Alone.