In motherhood, we don’t get many quiet moments. I’m beginning to think that’s by design. The incessant busyness keeps us distracted from the unavoidable truth about our children that hides from us in plain sight: year by year, week by week, minute by minute, they are slowly slipping away from us as they march on toward their independence. So on those rare moments when my house goes quiet and all my tasks for the day are miraculously completed, my restless mind starts reflecting, processing, and wondering: How? How am I, as a mom, supposed to deal with the realization that time is quietly, willfully, obviously stealing my children—my very life—from me?
How am I supposed to carry on with my day as though nothing is happening all the while knowing that with each passing second my daughter is one step closer to becoming a woman? That my tenderhearted, inquisitive little fireball of energy and confidence may soon be silenced by the feminine insecurity that often accompanies the timeless teenage boy/girl dynamic we know so well? Today she is so free, so precocious, and so unaware of the very future that awaits her…a future that will be bright but also punctuated by disappointment, heartache, and the painful lessons of injustice and unkindness in the world. How am I supposed to prepare her for this inevitability? How can I convince her that being smart, capable, considerate, and kind are all wonderful assets and not liabilities to be tossed away at her first available opportunity?
As she cheerfully rattles off the names of the three lucky “bachelors” she intends to marry—at the ripe old age of five, mind you—how do I steady myself to confront the inevitable pain that I know she’ll experience as she navigates her way through the unpredictable labyrinth that is young love? These boys that tell her they want to marry her during recess on the playground, they don’t know her. It would be foolish to presume that they do. But will anyone ever really know her the way I do?
Will her future suitors know that she liked me to stop the car halfway down the block on our way back from school so that she could run the rest of the way home? Will they know how she liked to color in shades of rainbows, carefully tinting little slivers of her coloring book so that the end result was a beautiful mosaic of each of the 24 colors of the Crayola box? Will they know how fast she could ride a scooter down our swooping driveway, or how much time she spent outside collecting leaves and berries and bugs? Will they know how much love, energy, excitement, and exhaustion she brought into our lives? Will they care?
And my son—my sweet, thoughtful, sensitive sunbeam of a little guy. How is my head supposed to convince my jealous heart of what it knows: that one day, when asked whom he wants to marry, his answer will no longer simply be “Mommy”? That one day, the unsolicited kisses and bear hugs and “I love yous” that are now reserved exclusively for me will be offered to someone else? That someday, someone in his life will dare to suggest to me that he is not perfect in every way and I will have to dig deep within myself to refrain from rattling off the millions of reasons I know that is simply not the case?
Will anyone ever really know him the way I do? Will they know how many times a day he used to say “Mommy?” and patiently wait for me to acknowledge him, only to reply “I love you”? Will they know how many times he would stand in the middle of room full of people and exclaim with unbridled enthusiasm, “I love all you guys!”? Will they know how he would ask me to turn the volume up on his favorite songs (which also happen to be mine) when we’re driving and then flap his arms like a chicken while kicking the seatback in an overt display of happiness (and a complete lack of rhythm)? He is special. He has brought joy into my life in a way I never knew possible.
How can I guard against someone else persuading him that his sweet temperament is a weakness rather than his greatest strength? How can I convince him that it’s OK to seek solace and comfort in the arms of your mama even as he is determined to put on a brave face to the outside world? How can I foster and nurture his sensitive side, his love for God, and his compassion for others in a world that doesn’t always reward these traits in its boys and men?
And what about me? How am I supposed to be able to make it through this day knowing that I won’t always have these two precious children sleeping under my roof? That they won’t always be the faces greeting me in the morning? That my son will not always want to hold my hand when he walks from room to room throughout our house but will instead actively attempt to avoid my attention as he noiselessly passes by? That my daughter will one day stop asking me so many questions because she will no longer believe in her heart that I have the answers she’s searching for?
I know this time is coming. I know that just as childbirth is part of motherhood, so too is the process of watching your children grow up and find their own way. What I do not know is how I am supposed to live with this eventuality. I am a mother of two young children. It is what I am. I did not have children intending to transform into a woman who identifies primarily as a mother, and yet there is no doubt that is who I have become. What do I have left once these two children don’t need me anymore? What will I do without them?
It is overwhelming to me, and on most days more than I can bear to think about. And so I snap out of it. I refocus my energy on packing the lunches, readying the backpacks and breakfast for the next day so the morning has a fighting chance of running smoothly. I focus on the things I can fix and try to ignore the things I can’t. They are there—ever present, ever waiting for me to slow down so they can make themselves known anew. But I keep busy. I work and worry and clean and prepare and plan and love. I do all the things that moms do while trying my best to ignore all the things that we moms know.
You’ve got to give a little, take a little,
and let your poor heart break a little.
That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.