Our new job requires a lifetime commitment, involves long hours, messy details and pays nothing. But, we believe it is the most important and rewarding job we’ll ever have.
This is from the homemade birth announcements sent when my daughter was born. We, as first time parents, didn’t have a clue! But I have to say, I think our definition of parenthood was pretty accurate.
What we didn’t know far outweighed what we did know, but other parents were quick to fill in the blanks.
Why is it when you are pregnant, most notably for the first time, everyone is vying to tell you their delivery and birth experience? Especially if it is 20 plus hours of agony, only to culminate in a C-section. They report every gory, terrifying detail, no matter if the mom-to-be’s face is white and her eyes are rolling back in her head. These bearers of gloom & doom are oblivious to the effect their horror stories are having on the first time mom.
And then, flush with their newly earned experience, they can’t wait to relate those first months with a newborn. The mind-numbing fatigue brought on by endless nights of interrupted or no sleep. Walking around with dirty hair wearing puke stained clothes, mumbling nonsense because they have ‘mommy brain.’ Those that breast-fed reveal details I’m not about to share here.
We move on to reports of the reign of terror brought on by the toddler years, right on up to the trauma of living with and raising teenagers.
I feel qualified to write on this topic now that my baby is a 22-year-old married nurse. Because I want to alert you to something no one told me and I feel cheated, left out of the big secret. And here it is: No one tells you how much it will hurt to let them go.
It had been just the two of us for years. Our mother-daughter relationship was not without its struggles. I still assert that infancy, toddler time and teens were a fairy tale compared to the middle school years. That was our reality at any rate.
Her senior year of high school seemed to move lightning fast and with each passing day I dreaded the inevitable….moving her into that college dorm. I did my best to only let her see the happy, supportive mom. Meanwhile, I cried in secret and battled the growing anxiety. Don’t misunderstand – I was SO incredibly proud of her – the choices she had made, the way she pursued the college and the degree that was right for her. I wanted her to have every amazing moment that was before her.
I just wasn’t sure how I would forge a life for myself that didn’t include seeing her, hugging her and loving her every day.
When the day arrived, after we had set up her dorm room and made the requisite trips to Wal-Mart, feelings overwhelmed me. But remarkably, not the ones I had expected. I was certainly tearful, but more than that I felt proud. After all, this was what we both had been working toward for years and we were here! WE did it! Driving away from campus I felt very little of the apprehension I was so certain would paralyze me. I felt excited for her….excited for the life-long friendships she would make, for the adventures she would have and even for the struggles, because they would refine and define who she was to become.
We both realize that those college years cemented our bond. I was always there to offer advice if she asked for it and encouragement when she needed it. I watched her bloom and mature and I respected her ability to make her own decisions regarding her life’s direction.
One of those decisions took me by surprise, even though I saw it coming.
My baby was getting married! How did this happen already?!?! Where did the time go? She is so young. Is she ready for this life-altering, life-long commitment? Turns out she was far more ready for it than I was.
My now son-in-law was everything a mom would pray and hope for her daughter. So what was my problem?
Well, I was losing her – at least that’s what I thought. I knew college was temporary, but this was for life. Someone else would be the priority in her life, and he should. Again, I didn’t begrudge her any of her dreams, but I wondered what they would mean to our relationship.
The answer is simple and painful. I miss her. I miss her like I never dreamed possible. I miss her with an ache that never quite abates. We talk, we text and if I ever get a grown up phone, we can talk AND see each other. But that doesn’t replace shopping with her, sharing a meal with her at our favorite restaurants, watching our favorite tv shows and movies or cooking together. Her life now is 8 1/2 hours away from mine, so any time we get these moments they are treasured. They also are often rushed and shared with others. I miss the moments that were ours alone. I miss my daughter.
So that is the part of the parenting story no one told me. It is our job as parents to nurture them, guide them and prepare them as best we can for the life they will claim as their own. I just had no idea how difficult that would be in actual practice.
Now you can’t say no one ever told you.
This is what I know…today.