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Anyone who has had a child knows “the bag” the one that sits, at the ready, for days or even weeks waiting for the “big event.” The one that contained symbols of the new roles that husband and wife would be taking on — the first outfit, the knitted hat, the snuggly blanket, as well as all the mom stuff that the new mother would need while she was being overwhelmed by those first hours of motherhood.
Here’s that bag for me.
It’s a great bag that my sister bought for me for the baby shower. It not only still exists but it has taken many journeys with our expanding family over the years. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that the bag that brought everything to the hospital when he was born should be the bag that went with us when we delivered TJ to the next big phase of his life. And so, “the bag” accompanied us to Burlington — a symbol of what had been and what was yet to be.
We were off, truck packed and the five of us enjoying a ride through the mountains to TJ’s new home for the school year. It didn’t take long for us to get him unpacked and for him to turn the contents of those boxes, foot lockers and duffle bags into his new digs. By the time we returned with lunch in hand and perishables for his new fridge, he had transformed the stark space into a very comfy spot, very “TJ”.
Everyone says that saying goodbye and leaving your child at college is hard, but the goodbyes weren’t very different from goodbyes when we’ve dropped the boys off elsewhere. Hugs and small talk. Last minute thoughts, a heartfelt “I love you”. Despite the admonitions from everyone including the parking attendants “Mom, no crying!” when we first pulled in, there were no tears. I am very proud of TJ and all that he has accomplished. He deserved to enjoy that day without a blubbering mom in the background or the foreground and I delivered. What was difficult is the coming home to TJ not being here. When we pulled into the driveway, my thought was “oh TJ’s home” when I saw his truck sitting there…only to realize that “no, he wasn’t home, that’s just his truck”. So, the long and short of it, is while TJ got the “no tear” send-off from his mom, the rest of the family hasn’t been so lucky since we’ve been home.
I’m mopey, I admit it. No one but another mom understands that it’s hard to share your life and for the better part of a year, share your very body with another person occupying the same space without feeling sad that things will never be the same. Will things be different? Yes. Will things be better? Maybe. Will you be proud of your child and their accomplishments? Absolutely.
But your family will never be the same configuration and chemistry and you will never be the same person as you were when you got in the car for that ride to college. We all know it’s coming. It might as well be printed on that bag that accompanies you to the hospital for the birth. It’s implicit in the very definition of parenting. The process of promoting and supporting the physical,emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. From the second we are “officially” parents at the birth, it is a process of independence, of teaching another human being to be self-sufficient and in so doing, tearing yourself away from that person that you have created.
Leaving TJ at the door to his dorm, there was not a cell in my body that wasn’t happy for him and confident that Tom and I had done the best job we could in the preceding 18+ years in preparing him for this next journey. There wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t swelling with pride at the young man he has become. At the same time however, there are just as many cells yearning to freeze time and protect the familiar part of my life. In the days that follow “drop off” there will be adjustment…contrary to the “how to” books, it won’t be so much for the college student as for the college student’s mom.
TJ leaves on Friday for college. We are in the countdown phase for sure. This past week, the UPS guy and the FedEx guy have been making almost daily stops to our house, delivering in drips and drabs various components of TJ’s new life away from home. Each delivery brings with it another dose of reality that things will be very different around here next week this time. Nonetheless, I am putting on my big girl panties and keeping a brave face. This is not the end, but the beginning.
He will be off to a new adventure for which I hope we have prepared him well. At least, it seems judging by the boxes and foot lockers strewn around the house, he will be well packed.
A friend’s friend posted this on Facebook. I simultaneously was laughing and crying because it’s exactly what I would say and what moms want. I had to share.
Thanks, Mary Carpenter for the great words!
So I’ve decided to be proactive and tell my kids what I want for mother’s day. Here it is:
What I Want for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day is coming up, and I thought I should tell you what I want. This way there’s no guilty panic or last minute purchasing of flowers at the closest gas station. So, this is what I want, this year and every year after; it’s pretty simple really.
I want you to be a decent human being.
I want you to be who you are, but don’t be an asshole.
I want you to work hard at everything you do, because life is too short not to give it everything you’ve got.
I want you to ask for help when you need it.
I want you to help others when they need it.
I want you to learn how to cook, do your own laundry, pay your bills and know how to clean a bathroom.
When you screw up, and you will, more than once, I want you to own it, because it’s the screw-ups that make the victories sweeter.
I want you to travel, because the world is huge and you are one part of it.
I want you to know that even when we hate each other, I will never stop loving you.
I want you to play nicely with others.
I want you to feed your curiosity.
I want you to find a way to do what you love, and realize that that might look different than you originally thought.
I want you to respect every human being’s right to be who they are.
I want you to sometimes be more interested in someone else than in yourself.
I want you to know that you are flawed and you are extraordinary. There is no one else like you.
I want you to know that I would lay down my life for you in Lily Potter fashion any day of the week.
I want you to realize how lucky you are every once in awhile even if only for an instant.
I want you to know love, even if it means getting hurt.
I want you to relax and not feel guilty about it.
I want you to know life can be brutally hard sometimes.
I want you to know that you can choose happiness even when the dark side offers you cookies.
And I wouldn’t mind breakfast in bed.
No matter how much our kids can tick us off on occasion, I know of no mother (or father) who doesn’t feel their pain when they are ill or hurt. The parent reflex kicks in almost immediately when something happens to your babies. When that happens, the reality of this:
Immediately reverts to this in your mind:
and you have an uncontrollable desire to make them safe and protect them. For that split second, you no longer see the almost fully grown man before you, instead you see that little child and you want to make it better and hold him safe.
Today, one of the boys passed clean away in front of me at a doctor’s appointment. Luckily he was seated at the time. But still, not what either of us expected to happen. He was back a couple minutes later and all is fine, but still for those couple minutes, my heart only saw the little boy. I guess that the big boys will always be the little boys in my heart.
Sometimes we are so self-centered and wrapped up in our own lives that we forget. We forget that as miserable as our day may be because we have a million different things to do or a tough project or a dreaded appointment, there are others for whom the day is even more difficult. We forget that their difficult day makes our day pale in comparison. All those things that we bitch and moan about are so trivial when you look at the bigger picture.
Today is one of those days. A friend and fellow mom is dealing with the one year anniversary of the tragic death of her son. I can only imagine that the projects on my to-do list and the worries in my heart today pale in comparison to her day today. I remember hearing the news and literally shaking. One of my son’s friends had tragically taken his own life and life for his family will never be the same. As a mom, I send good thoughts and prayers her way today since words are inadequate to convey my feelings.
For those of you who know them, please take a moment to pause and remember today. While we all surrounded them with love a year ago, it is important to remember that their loss and their grief remain one year later.
Thoughts, prayers and hugs go out to Cindy, Dan and Ben on this difficult day.
It has been a beautiful and very busy few days here. Let’s do a little recap….
Thursday was Tim’s premiere in Chambers. It was the first concert for the school. Tim is in Chambers, Men’s Ensemble and Senior Chorus so he was pretty busy on Thursday night. I love the fact that even though he’s a big shot singer, he’ll still find the time to pose for a mom’s picture.
Here he is in Men’s Ensemble, singing “Pretty Woman” and below is Chambers….
It was a great concert as usual and not just because my son was singing in it.
This is the first Columbus Day weekend since we’ve had our house up here that we have had no company. Not a soul. It was a beautiful weekend here too, sunny and warm and well just plain gorgeous. I hope that Irene hasn’t scared everyone off, evidently it didn’t scare the idiot who came to a complete stop in the middle of doing 50 miles per hour on Route 103 in order to gape at the house where the river washed away most of its foundation when it changed course through the poor people’s yard. Seriously, a total and complete stop on the highway with three cars behind them.
Anyway…..sorry to rant. I had a great time with my mom friends where we did a whole bunch of picture taking in the fall foliage. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the afternoon.
Today I spent hours digging potatoes. Probably about more than 100 pounds of them. Pulling out a lot of the garden since we know this beautiful Indian summer weather is just a passing trend…..
I know that being a teenager isn’t easy. Despite what you may think sometimes, I am young enough to remember what being a teenager was like, with all the ups and the downs. You are trying to find the person you are and struggling with your independence and most of the time, your father and I are viewed as the enemy. We won’t let you do this or that and we’re mean — or so you think.
Just remember that while you are struggling to fit comfortably into the man who you are becoming, I am struggling to learn to let go. It is just as hard for me as it is for you…in fact, it might be harder since I have known you longer than you remember me. You were quite literally a part of me for the better part of almost a year. From the moment that I found out you existed, I tried to protect you…from everything. I didn’t do certain things, I didn’t eat certain things, because they might have hurt you. When you were born my life changed… forever. There was no going back. For the better part of a decade you depended on me and your dad for pretty much everything. You were so happy to see us when we came home and gave me hugs that were as tight as your little arms could manage. If something frightened you or hurt you, you came running to me or your dad. You looked to us to protect you…be it from something real or just something that was very real to you. You couldn’t wait to tell me about this or that thing that happened and I couldn’t wait to hear every detail of your day.
Now, you roll your eyes because I am asking how your day was or who your friends are or what your plans for the weekend might be…it’s really just because I miss being the one that you want to share all that with and because I really want to know. I’m still interested in what you are doing, your hopes, your dreams. You shrug away when I try to give you a hug or a kiss. You mutter under your breath about “moms” and make me feel guilty for caring.
Sometimes I don’t think that you understand that this growing up thing is two-sided. It’s just as much about you learning to be your own person as it is for me to learn to let you go off into the world on your own. While it can be scary and frustrating for you sometimes….it’s scary and frustrating for me too.
Taking care of you and protecting you and being there for you is something that I have been doing for your entire life. You will never be too old to be my little boys. I want to see you have wonderful, full, loving lives and careers that you love. I love you so much and you won’t even understand exactly how much that is until you have kids of your own. I love your friends since you chose them and they are a reflection of you. I think you’re turning into wonderful men and I am very proud of you. Your friends, along with your brothers, are the foundation of your lives and I hope that you are able to build a warehouse full of memories with them, stories that will make you laugh so hard that you cry, just thinking of all the good times you’ve had together throughout your lifetime. Along the way, remember that my asking questions and wanting to know stuff is because I love you and sometimes I miss the little boys that you were and the fact that I was your world and you wanted to share every part of your day with me. It’s not always about being nosey or a pain in your butt (okay sometimes it is because after all that’s a parent’s job) but it’s really because I’m interested and I miss having you depend on me so much. It’s a whole new role for me too, being a mom of teenage boys, and I have to figure out where I belong and how I fit into that new role.
So please, try to remember, as you are wandering through the web of adolescence and rolling your eyes and muttering under your breath and believing that I am the biggest thorn in your side; there are two parts to the process, this growing-up thing, — yours and mine.
Initial testing indicates that the 26-year-old United States swimmer, Fran Crippen died of a heart attack while swimming in an open water race in the United Arab Emirates. I think that as a mom, this is one of the scariest things. Here, evidently was a young man who appeared perfectly healthy. So healthy in fact that he was able to participate in the 10 kilometer Marathan World Cup Swimming Race. More healthy than most of us from outward appearance. Yet, he just apparently dropped dead during the race and was found two hours later by deep sea divers. Scary, scary stuff. You’ve heard me say this before, but seriously this scares the be-jeebers out of me. There was nothing, not a single blessed thing that anyone including the woman that gave birth to him and I am sure would have gladly given her own life if she had the opportunity, could do to save his life.
As a parent, we all have fears- irrational and rational – about our children and their health and well-being. When I read a story like this, it sends shivers down my spine. My boys, as I look at them now, seem perfectly healthy. Yet, it appears in a heartbeat, that can always change – no big bad guys for us parents to beat up on, no big horrible illness to blame for their demise.
Thoughts and prayers go out to this young man’s family – I can only imagine the depth and extent of their grief.
I love when I just happen upon a new blog – I came this blog Large Family Life from the writer’s comment about bees and autism (both of which I can relate to). While grazing through her posts, I came upon this one about Mother’s Day. When things are so well written that they strike something in me, I feel compelled to share. This is an excerpt from Maria’s blog post and I appreciate what she has written.
I leave you with this excerpt from Nicole Johnson’s novel The Invisible Woman (W Publishing Group, 2005):
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.”
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude -but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.
She’s going … she’s going … she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it.
I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
* No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.
* These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
* They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
* The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.”
And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add,”You’re gonna love it there.”
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
I can relate to Maria – not so much because of the large family (she outdoes me by 3) but she is also a lawyer and a mom. We have to stick together. Some days I feel invisible – today is one of them.