Letting Go as Our Kids Grow

 

Twenty four hours after pushing and groaning my way through her birth, I clicked the silver snaps on the bottom of my daughter’s onesie and wrapped her in a cotton blanket blooming with rosebuds the color of her fingertips. I slipped a matching cap over the dark peach fuzz of her head, and I cooed over her as we waited for her daddy to arrive and drive us home.

The two of us fumbled with the straps on the car seat, and I slid, tender and raw into the seat beside our baby. Side by side, apprehensive, in love, driving into the unknown.

I clutched the new car seat as my husband sped home. I had no idea then that motherhood is learning how to let go–from the first day to forever.

As I stepped across the threshold of our little brick house on Sunny Hill Lane, I held my baby wrapped in rosebuds, and I waited for someone to stop me. Someone older and wiser would surely step in and save this child from the imposter posing as her mother.

I had never felt so disoriented or disconnected from my own life with its new responsibilities, its new role, its new body. Overnight, I became someone’s mother.¬†With two steps and the creak of a screen door, we entered our home as a family.

I had no idea what I was doing. Eighteen years later, I still don’t. Give me a toddler, an elementary aged kid, a middle grader, and I can advise you on the joys and pitfalls of each stage. Give me my own child, now posing as an adult and living in another state, and I am once again an imposter. I slip through the screen door and feel my way around the new shape of our family.

My rosebud baby is in full bloom–a garden of soft-petaled roses. I watch her unfold from a distance. At the sight of the small, empty well on the right side of her bed, I pick my way through thorns and velvet. There is a daughter-shaped space in every room. Her laughter lingers like smoke in quiet corners.

I miss her.

I realize now, she’s been preparing me for this from the first car ride home from the hospital. From the first time she ran in the opposite direction when I called her name, the first time she slept at a friend’s house, the first time she drove away with a driver’s license burning like fire in her pocket.

Until she’s a mother herself, she won’t realize the exquisite joy/pain I feel every time I pass by a mirror and see the shape of her eyes looking back at me. She doesn’t know that while I practiced letting go, I never stopped carrying her inside of me.

Transitioning Well with the Change of Seasons

I woke with a start at 4am this morning. The coming week is pregnant with change, and by four in the morning, my overloaded brain, heavy with the weight of all the unknowns, could no longer rest. It spun and twisted around each anxiety that I haven’t given myself the space to process.

It reminded me of the final days of my long ago pregnancies, when my body couldn’t rest for all of the life humming beneath the surface of my skin. In the quiet hours, I traced the shape of elbows and feet sliding under the surface of my belly, as my baby rolled and kicked in anticipation. Soon, the womb would give way to the wide-open world. Soon, lungs would expand with oxygen and limbs would feel the brush of air. Soon, freedom, space, room to breathe.

Within the next week, my oldest daughter will leave for college, I will begin a new job, and my youngest will begin a new school. The days are ripe, heavy with the impending change, and I have filled them with lists upon lists of things that must get done. As I’ve run from one task to another, I feel the tug of my soul, pulling against the weight of my to-do lists. I worry that I’m not ready in the ways I should be. I feel unprepared and unfinished.

My schedule is slowly sorting itself out, but my soul is just beginning to whisper hints of what it needs to survive in this new space. I asked a friend how she transitions well as she gives birth to a new season, and tears welled up in my eyes at her reply. She said “by stopping”.

How simple and yet, how impossible this sounds. How does the soul stop when the schedule requires us to keep moving? My friend suggests we give ourselves the gift of time. Time for thought, reflection, and acknowledgement. Time to ask ourselves all the questions that bubble to the surface.

At four a.m., time is what my wide-awake soul craves.

Somehow, I expected myself to enter this new season fully ready. But, as every mother knows, all you really need to grow a life is time led by the hand of love. So, I’ll give myself space to trace the lines of impending change as it moves beneath my skin. I will ask myself all the questions that accompany it. And I will trust that breathing space will arrive, as it always does, when giving birth.

When You Don’t Want Summer to End: A Serenade for the Seasons

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Come mid-August, I’m ready for the return of structured days. I’m ready for yellow buses and quiet hours and watching my kids play sports under a canopy of burnt orange leaves. I’m ready for early mornings and rain-soaked skies and school books fanned out across the dining room table. Did I mention I’m ready for the quiet? I love the muted hum that enters with the advent of Autumn.

My kids begin school in two weeks, and for the first time in many years, I want to tug the curtain back on the new day dawning, exposing us to more sunshine and summer. I blinked and an invisible hand drew the drapes on this season. This year, I’m not only saying farewell to summer, I’m also saying goodbye to this season of parenting. This abundant season when all my children live under my roof, needing me, wanting my time, my approval, my attention.

My oldest enters her senior year of high school in two weeks, and she is ready. I am ready. All is as it should be, but knowing this doesn’t remove the taste of it from my mouth. It is, like most things in life, bittersweet. We are moving into a new season, and the bright blooms of summer will fade, the sun will play hide and seek, and the child of my heart will trim away the strings that tie her to me.

I want to lament the passage of time, but I would be wrong to wish for anything other than life as it is today. This season is so good–so very hard, but so very good. Next summer, my daughter will pack her life and all of my love in a few cardboard boxes and drive into the beginning of the rest of her life. I hope she’ll remember how I used to sing her to sleep. How my life was spent as a serenade to the changing seasons.

On Letting Go

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I watered the flowers in the dark last night, by the light of the waxing gibbous moon. I shivered in the cool air, realizing for the first time that Fall is coming soon. My hands are a sieve and time is passing through them. Summer slipped through the cracks and crevices, and a few big memories remain, but the rest dripped down and out, making room for the next season.

Fall will be a season of schedules and work and preparing for our oldest’s future. I’m afraid I will miss something. A friend asked me a medical question a few days ago, and I realized after 15 years out of the nursing field, I no longer have any answers. I told her I don’t know, I don’t have room for that, the answers poured through the sieve many years ago. I had to let them go in order to make room for all the other bits of information and memories and tasks of my real life. I don’t have room to hold onto the former.

When the cool air hit my face last night, it slapped me awake. I don’t want to miss my favorite season, or the children growing into themselves, or me growing into myself either. I want the stories of our life to wrap themselves tight around my wrists, and to wind themselves into my hair. I hope the scent of things to come will cling to me everywhere I go, rather than the scent of what’s already lost–the parts of my life that have already passed through the strain of time. There is so much clinging to me that I simply must let go. Expectations, abandoned desires, failures, residual sadness, knowledge that no longer serves me well.

It’s time to let them pass through, rather than cling to the summer me, it’s time to embrace the next season, to tighten my focus on the coming Fall.

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Is there anything you need to release as you set your face towards the new season? What is one new thing you hope to learn, grow in, or experience in the Fall?

Snapshots of a Snow Day

snow day via kimberlyanncoyle.com

I can hear the two youngest through the ice-cold window panes. They shout something or other into the muffle of snow, their words bright spots of color against a backdrop of quiet white.

The oldest is over it–the cold, the white, the endless storm. She comes out of her room for chocolate chip pancakes. That is all.

The dog curls up on the sofa and lets out a deep sigh. His ears flop over and I want to snuggle into the curve of his back and stroke them.

The husband flies home today after five days away in Prague. I check his flight status obsessively throughout the day. All week, I try not to envy him while I sit at home snow-bound in New Jersey. I don’t succeed, especially on the day I turn forty. I wonder how he will make it up the driveway through the thick layer of fluff. I imagine him stuck at the bottom, dragging his suitcase behind him, leaving two snake-like trails all the way to the front door. He will wear shoes entirely wrong for the weather we’re experiencing.

I sit at the kitchen table in my pajamas, computer open, pretending I’m “working”. I realize the only work I’m fit for is personal shopping. I drink six cups of tea and start to feel the jitters. I look up a recipe for making a whole chicken in a slow-cooker. I gather the ingredients then empty the dishwasher. This is the extent of my work today–dishes, phone calls, and a few loads of laundry while the scent of garlic and wine fill the kitchen.

Most days this does not feel like enough, but today, I decide to release the feelings of never-enough. I open my hands and I let go. Today, while the skies sift powder like a sieve, may the filling of bellies and the practiced work of my hands and the warmth of my presence be enough for them and for me.

……….

I share most of my everyday snapshots on instagram, but in an effort to shake loose the knots in my creativity, I thought it might be fun to share a few here in word form too. I love reading about other people’s everyday. Would you share a snapshot of your day in the comments?