No One Prepared Me For This
No one prepared me for this.
Sure, I read the parenting books that told me my job as a parent was to help my children grow up to be independent adults, and to send them happily off to make their way in the world.
It all sounded easy on paper, and in the early throngs of motherhood when I would have sold my soul for an uninterrupted night of sleep, it even sounded desirable.
But that was then.
Now that my two girls are both on the cusp of branching out into independent lives, it has become quite another story. A new story I am desperately struggling to rewrite into one with a much happier ending, at least for me. A new tale in which they stay happily ensconced in our family home with me as their beloved matriarch; until I no longer need them.
That’s right. Me, need them.
I have spent so many hours, days, months, and years with their lives completely intertwined with my own, it has become impossible for me to comprehend a new reality that does not include them on a yearly, monthly, daily, and hourly basis. They have been the reason for ninety-nine percent of everything I have done for so long, I find myself at a loss to decipher exactly what my purpose is now supposed to be.
This past summer my youngest moved out with her boyfriend for the relatively short period of eight weeks, mostly for the convenience of commuting to her summer job, but also to try on the mantle of independence. She is doing quite well. I, however, am not. Four a.m. seems to be my personal witching hour. In the black of night my racing heart pulls me from the depths of sleep. I wake in a panic; pulse throbbing in my temples, and the worry begins. Is she safe? Was this the right move for her? Will he break her heart? And finally, the kicker: why does she not need me like I need her?
My baby is gone.
My baby is looking to someone else for guidance and support.
My baby is growing up and away from me.
She will return in the fall to continue her studies at university, but then it will be even harder for me to keep at arms length. She has proven herself capable of surviving on her own, so how to stop myself from stepping in and trying to take charge again?
I’m not quite sure how our relationship is going to survive this new reality.
And, just when I have begun to accept this foreshadowing of things to come, my oldest tells me she has been looking for an apartment.
My heart, still reeling from my youngest daughter’s departure, now stutters in panic at the thought of losing another.
I am torn. Proud that my girl is self sufficient enough, both financially and emotionally, to consider this move but devastated that she is now financially and emotionally independent enough to consider this move.
Where is the instruction manual that would have prepared me for this? Telling me my job is to prepare my children to move forward into their own independent lives is useless. That part I understand. What I need to know now, is how to accept that they have reached that point.
Why is it that the majority of parenting books are focused on mothering children from birth to the toddler years? As far as I’m concerned that was the easy part, and a job at which I excelled. I was a great mother; creative, compassionate, caring and above all, involved.
My heart wants to continue to be all those things. It does not know how to stop. Some parts will still be acceptable to my children; that last bit? Not so much.
So now what? Shouldn’t there be some rulebook for us menopausal mothers? Some wonderful tome filled with sage advice to assist us in this transition?
Maybe I’ll have to write that book myself, and then when that middle-of-the-night witching hour arrives, I won’t be worrying, I’ll be writing.
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.