As much as I knew this was inevitable, I still was unprepared when it happened. Last summer my youngest daughter, Claire, fell in love.
The transition from girlhood to grownup was so subtle I almost missed it. At first it was only innocent little things. A few friends gathering, going for hikes, swimming, going to see the fireworks at English Bay. Then slowly there were less and less friends involved, until only one remained. A boy.
Stomach clenched in terror and breath held in hopeless trepidation, I asked the dread question. “Are you and Jackson an item?”
“Mom,” she moaned, “seriously?” Her embarrassment eased my worry, but only a little.
“He seems pretty into you, sweetie.”
“Get real, Mom. He’s just a friend. Besides, he’s short.”
Short or not, Jackson was most definitely interested in my daughter. It wasn’t that I had anything against him. He was a lovely young man: bright, respectful, and attractive, with gorgeous red hair. He was a vegetarian, he didn’t smoke, or drink; he seemed the perfect person to date my daughter. But…
She was after all, my baby, and I was absolutely not ready for this life transition. I wanted her to stay my sweet, wonderful, and innocent baby girl. She might be twenty, but she was still my baby. My girl. Not his. I was not prepared to share her…yet.
They continued to hang out for the rest of the summer and I could clearly see his intentions, even if she couldn’t. He was courting her. Gradually, his name began to roll off her tongue at every opportunity. “Jackson says you shouldn’t put your knives in the dishwasher, Mom. Jackson says we need to be firmer with Skipper,” (our one-year-old cocker spaniel.) “Jackson says—blah, blah, blah.”
Really, Jackson? Got any more sage words of advice for me? My resentment grew each time she uttered his name. I was like a jealous teenager, ready to hate anyone who stole my beloved’s attention. As a fifty-something professional woman, these emotions were as powerful as they were embarrassing, and I struggled to keep them hidden from Claire.
Then, one lazy summer evening, it happened. Claire had gone to meet Jackson for coffee. Apparently he needed to see her before he left for a weeklong volunteering trip. Oh, I just bet you do, Mr. Jackson with the spikey red hair.
I called her on my cell phone. “Where are you?” I asked, upset that she hadn’t come home yet. We were in the middle of home renovations and she had promised to help me.
“I’m with Jackson.”
“Well, I know that. You already told me you were meeting him, but where are you.”
“At Leigh Square. We’re going”—her voice dropped an octave, “out.”
I missed her inflection entirely. Angry, I sputtered, “No you’re not, you’re coming home to help me, remember?”
“No, Mom. We’re going out.”
This time I got it. My heart stuttered like a bashful boy asking his first love to go steady. “What? You’re what?”
“You know, Mom, going out. As in dating.”
I could hear the happiness in her voice and, because I knew her so well, her apprehension. I wasn’t sure if it was the anticipation of my reaction that made her uneasy, or the thought of entering a whole new world—one in which she had suddenly assumed a more adult role, and one in which someone other than her parents, and especially me, her mother, would hold a preeminent place.
I was not prepared for the overwhelming grief that hit me. I was knocked to my virtual knees with the realization that someone had replaced me as the center of Claire’s world. Claire and I are very close.
As a child with the dual exceptionalities of giftedness and learning disabilities, she had required significant intervention. We spent many hours together trying to unravel the mystery that was her brain, and many more squabbling over homework. She was also a competitive Irish dancer and we travelled all over North America, and even Ireland, for her competitions. We clocked so many hours together she grew accustomed to sharing the minutia of her life with me.
This boy who had stolen her heart gave her a whole new topic to discuss with me. She shared everything, even things I perhaps did not care to know about. That was her way. But, as much as I was thrilled to see someone love her in the way I knew she deserved to be loved, I was also sad. Motherhood is such a funny thing.
At first you are terrified that you won’t be able to take care of another life, to nurture that little being and help it to grow into independent adulthood. You might even feel resentful of having to give up your old life, and of having another living creature so dependent on you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Then, without warning, it happens. You embrace motherhood with a passion you might never have known you were capable of, if you hadn’t become a mother. You become the consummate protector, provider, and advocate, ready to do battle with any who dares to threaten your beloved offspring. Your children train you, by their very vulnerability, to be constantly at attention, to guard against any harm, and to love unconditionally.
Then, just when you have it all figured out, they grow up and fall in love. Suddenly there is someone else to be their protector, their advocate, and even their provider. I didn’t want to feel this way. I was caught off guard by the strength of my emotions, and more than a little ashamed of my jealousy. I am working hard to contain it and move on.
One year later they are still together, and reluctantly I have let this ginger-haired interloper into my heart. I know the odds of them staying together long term are slim, but they are two old souls who spent several years as friends before falling in love. They might surprise us all. I am rooting for them.
As Claire is pulling away, joining this new unfamiliar world of adult relationships, my role in her life is shifting to the background, and that’s a good thing. I just didn’t think it would hurt this much.
Leslie Wibberley is physiotherapist by profession, a slightly maddened mother to two outstanding young women and one slightly insane cocker spaniel, and wife to a loving and extremely tolerant husband. Writing has always been her passion but one she has only recently re-committed her life to. With one middle grade novel complete, one young adult novel in the throngs of revision, and numerous short stories and personal essays lying in repose in her beloved MacBook Air, she is now proud to call herself a writer. Her article RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE recently won 6th place in Writer’s Digest annual contest.
my son tries to break an egg
he grips it in his fist
as though he could squeeze it open
but finding the egg
resistant to even-sided pressures
the roundest end against
the counter’s edge
the resulting cracks
grant his small hand
a crushing power
past shattered shell-white
yolk bleeds down
his face grows like a plant
As if he broke sunshine
over every valley on earth
As if he brought morning
to his mother in a silver bowl
Concerning my creative process: for me writing is a spiritual practice. It is a way to find purpose and meaning in my life and the world around me. I will usually feel a glimmer of inspiration during “ordinary life,” and that glimmer will become the seed of a poem. It is nurtured through revision and study, both processes that feed me as a person and help me be fully present and aware as a mother. People often ask me how I find time to write as a mother of three boys, ages 6, 5, and 2. I always tell them I need to write, that it is essential in order for me to be the best mother I can be. So nurturing my creative and spiritual self allows me to parent with my best and entire being. However, even my creative process, like parenting, is a blend of intention and reality, and I am continually learning how to balance my own needs with the needs of my family. I have a extremely supportive co-parent, and am grateful to be encouraged and helped by my spouse. Motherhood is a complex human experience and includes both joys and challenges. This poem was written as a way to explore both what is joyful and challenging about mothering. I wanted to capture an experience that embodies what it means to be both broken and nurtured by parenting.
Lauren K Carlson is a rural woman writer who uses concrete images to explore complex spiritual themes. She lives with her husband and three sons in Dawson, Minnesota. Her work has been published in Fwriction:review and Blue Heron Review.
She glanced at her hands yesterday
All wrinkled and crooked
Just like old hands
But she was still young.
Where did the beauty go?
Why do they look so old?
“They washed your dirt and dirty clothes
Cleaned your mess when you littered
Pressed your legs to rid of pain
Oiled your hair
Ironed your clothes
Cooked your food
And spoon fed you
Rocked you all night singing rhymes
Tied your laces umpteen times.
They toiled like a labor does
So what if I have wrinkled hands?
For I am a mother it’s meant to be
And this should not bother me.”
She thought to herself
And smiled at him.
Nausheen Mujeeb is a poet, early years teacher and a reiki healer. Her work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine.
We sang bye and bye the moon is half a lemon pie,
cocooned together in the sleeping bag past bedtime.
One silly and talking a blue streak, one reflecting on what it would mean
to see this all again in so many years, while earth’s shadow and sun’s muted light
made moon show all of her faces, like time edging forward, a month of phases in a single night.
I, too, imagined seeing another supermoon eclipse in many years, myself bent to my mother’s age,
my children grown and gone from me. I felt the coolness of the night
and drew them closer, aware of how hard it is to hold fast
as time eclipses onward, as the moon changes
from full to gibbous, from half to crescent, from silver to rust.
Bethany Fitzpatrick has a M.A. in English from the University of Arkansas. She’s a full-time mom, and a part-time teacher and writer, who loves reading, dancing, singing off key, and perusing endless shelves of books. She has published poetry in Babblefruit and the Apeiron Review, as well as personal essays online with Mothers Always Write, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and Mamalode. She has also self-published Becoming: A Journey to Motherhood, a chapbook of poems through Lulu press.