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Motherhood may be permitted its moments of unmitigated joy, but today I realized that we are not the ones to choose them.
You’d think that—at nearly 50 and having had my children well into my 40’s—I might have had some precognition of this precious little gem amongst the treasure trove of parental rites of passage.
As my boy Alex—now a seasoned veteran of elementary school entering 3rd grade—escorted his little sister Lizzie to her first full day in kindergarten this morning, the scales fell from my eyes.
I realized the reason I put off becoming a mother for so long must be because—at the unconscious and deeply-rooted primordial seat of my being—I must have known the last laugh of an omniscient universe constantly in search of human entertainment, would be on us.
Shakespeare’s gods (http://www NULL.enotes NULL.com/shakespeare-quotes/flies-wanton-boys-we-gods), like wanton boys, were tearing off my wings and jamming them down my throat, lodging them there like a fat lump of wet paper that, fortunately, prevented me from crying.
How long had I looked forward to this day? How long had I held it up as a beacon of light upon my occasionally wavering sanity during serial days of around-the-clock childcare?
How many times had I rubbed my palms together in anticipation of the previously forbidden freedoms I would enjoy from the day both of my children would walk hand-in-hand to school?
These were the thoughts that kept me going when—for the gazillionth time—Lizzie or Alex would burst into my room when I was dressing after a shower, or sequestered in the bathroom, when they fought uproariously in the back seat of the car during the 11th hour of my “shift” when my brain felt like mud, or when, like this morning, one of them said the unthinkable.
Lizzie, exhausted from rising before dawn so that she could make the school commute, angrily burst into tears while I stood with her before the bathroom mirror, combing her hair into a braid.
“I hate you, Mommy!” she cried. “I want another Mommy!”
The harsh words and angry tone were juxtaposed with a face exuding the angelic innocence and glow of a Raphael.
It was a watershed moment.
And, now, I can safely guarantee two things to all mothers: first, if your child says these words, they will be forever branded painfully upon your consciousness; second, there is no reply to them that holds so much as a drop of water.
It’s at moments such as these that Frank and I, inevitably, turn to each other while eyeing the children as if they are recently landed aliens and ask accusingly: “And whose idea was this?”
Feeling like a bumbling idiot-parent dealing with a brilliant child-savant, I met her eyes in the mirror and uttered the first facile reply that tumbled from my lips.
“Go find another mother, then!”
Then, her angry monologue began.
Feeling confused and at a loss, I sent her to her room, for both of us to have a cooling off period. But mostly, it was so that I could figure out my next move.
I was baffled and hurt, yet all the while knowing that I had to rise above these emotions and be a parent, not a peer.
Only yesterday, she’d had a near-perfect first transitional half-day in kindergarten where we, as parents, were invited into the classroom to help her settle in.
It had all been hearts and flowers, smiles and chuckles, fun and games. Her teacher was almost effusive in telling us what a great morning she’d had.
Lizzie, by all accounts, was ready for Kinder. Frank and I were so busy congratulating ourselves that we did not see the storm brewing on the family horizon.
Today, Lizzie was supplanted by…Kidzilla.
As the children stood by the door, I gave Alex his now comfortable, customary kiss and hug. Telling me he loved me in return had now become a happy, effortless protocol.
With Lizzie, I listened to my gut instinct, knelt on the floor to meet her at eye-level, and placed my hands on her shoulders.
“Let’s not have a sad day and remember sad words,” I said. “Remember, when you are at school, that I love you.”
She flung her arms around my neck and hugged me fiercely.
“I didn’t get enough sleep, Mommy,” said the nearly-5-year-old sagely. “I love you too!”
Then, Frank drove them up the driveway, and I was not to know they were waving at me through the car window.
As I closed the door and turned inward to an empty house, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my father months previously, when Lizzie was still at home with me.
“What are you going to do when they are both at school?” he asked.
“Are you kidding, Dad?” I scoffed at his apparent blindness, “I’ll be livin’ the life of Riley!”
The crusty old man, now 81-years-old, merely smiled and grunted knowingly. “The silence will be deafening,” he promised.
After an hour so of listening to the marble floor breathe, I called Frank under the pretense of seeing that they got off to school safely, but both of us knew I needed some spousal counseling. After all, no one would understand my baffled longing and sadness as he would.
In the end he was chuckling, not unkindly: “If you keep kicking yourself in the ass, you’re going to get a sore foot.”
Of course, he was right.
But let it be known, this day is far from freedom. It’s the loss of a toddler who followed me around the house all day like a buzzing bee, only to be replaced by the fresh embrace of a young lady who will now bid me adieu every morning to join her big brother.
Every morning, I will now watch their backs turn—without the doubt, fear and sometimes remorse that I will feel, thinking I might have done a better job—as they walk into a brave new world.
It is the end of an era. And I’m finding a hard time dancing on the ceiling at the knowledge I have my days returned to me once again, after so many years.
All morning I have felt cut adrift and unable to find a suitable end to my story; one that I did not wish to end.
As is my custom, I emailed my drafted blog to Frank for an edit and a second opinion.
It was returned to me with a song (along with the clandestine fatherly sniffles lurking behind it). Frank had found my “ending”.
It is one that will mark this rite of passage—of letting go as parents—that we wish for our daughter and son, with love upon their journey.
If this era must end, let it end with this blessing for a new one:
I Think We’re Going To Be Friends (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=az8UDe6UQGQ)
Notes for this blog:
Flower Power Mom, main site: http://www.achildafter40.com (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/)
- (http://www NULL.ctvnews NULL.ca/health/health-headlines/women-increasingly-going-online-to-seek-free-sperm-donors-1 NULL.1590245)
Angel on CNN(http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)
CNN Mother's Day: "Mature Moms" (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=WySnP2nnwXU)(http://youtu NULL.be/atScMih4_d0) (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
AARP's "Inside E-Sreet" on PBS TV (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=sGRro4rHGeA)
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