I was meditating this morning and a favorite scene from a movie slipped into my mind. The movie is “How to Make an American Quit,” from 1995. In this particular scene, Ellen Burstyn’s character is relating a tale of love, betrayal, family, and friendship to her twenty-something granddaughter, played by Winona Ryder. She begins by saying, “When the person you love begins to die, there’s this unbearable……….severing.” I heard her words in my head. And the tears began to run down my cheeks, drip off my chin, trickle under my shirt. You see, it seems I’m experiencing an unbearable severing of my own. Not the death of a loved one. But the growing-up and moving-on of my beloveds.
It’s always just been the three of us. And we’ve always loved it that way. I’ve experienced and acknowledged the passing of phases, always with a degree of longing, sometimes sadness, but also always welcoming what was developing. Happy about what was next. My eighteen-month old draped over my pregnant belly. The two-year-old rocking the baby’s cradle. Two small bodies curled in my lap, their curly heads tucked beneath my chin. The days of painting, drawing, making candles and play dough. Elbows deep in flour, baking chocolate chip cookies. Long walks on fall days, chasing milk weed seeds and gathering wooly bears. Dancing with their long evening shadows and jumping in leaves. Crawling into my bed for apples and cheese, warm milk with honey, and bed time stories on cold winter nights. Singing in the car. Dancing in the dining room. Painting bedrooms. Dinner discussions lasting long after the food was eaten. Soccer games. Friendship struggles. Hair styles and skinny jeans. Jersey swaps. Social Studies grades. Homecoming. Boyfriends. Prom. Friends.
My girls and I are really close. I think that comes from my not having had a partner in raising them. In many ways they’ve nurtured me over the years at least as much as I have them. We’ve been a tight trio. A force to be reckoned with. A solid front. A family. But this phase is different. The most challenging for me yet. Because this is the phase where they become more independent. Where they draw away. Where they develop their own lives. Their own lives away from me. Independent from me. And that’s exactly what they should be doing. It’s healthy. It’s right. Not to mention it’s completely necessary, or so I’m told anyway. But, now more than ever, I want to stop the planet from turning. I want to stope the clocks. In fact, I want to turn the clocks back. I want that 18-month old climbing into my lap with a book. I want that girl falling asleep on my pillow. I want that running leap into my arms. I want the small hands peeling apples next to me. And the voices asking me questions, and telling me their stories, and needing help with her zipper. I want the sleep-overs and pancake breakfasts the next morning. I even want the screaming two-year-old kicking in a football hold walking through the mall to the car.
I was going to give this post the title “Sweet, Healthy Pain.” But right now, there’s nothing sweet for me about it. It just hurts. It feels like a severing. An unbearable one. And I know this will pass too. I know I’ll adjust and simply be happy for all they’re doing. Because they’re doing everything SO darn well. They’re such great young women. But really, that’s what makes this harder. I miss them. No, it’s not over yet. They still have a couple years left of school. But it’s like that slow tearing-off of the bandage. They’re not my babies any more. Not my little girls, either. And I know this next phase and all that follow will bring multitudes of joys. I know that with all my being. But for now I’m just going to feel sad, for a little while at least, and long for what once was. Maybe even feel a little melodramatic about it. That’s what they’d tell me, anyway. That I’m being melodramatic. Pretty soon I’ll be glad for all this. My life will take a turn as well. It’s time for me to do more of my own things. I don’t know exactly what those “things” are. But I will. But for now, I’m just going to feel a little sad, and long for what once was and no longer is.
I love this. I love your mixture of feeling your feelings and accepting them as true, as well as knowing that this is a phase and you will move through it. You are a really good mom and a wise woman.
I have been feeling this also recently..and have not been able to share how much it hurts..I have not been mother of the year..don’t hover and control..so people are surprised when I express sadness..I miss little hands reaching for mine to cross the street..big smiles when they see me after school..crawling into bed for a morning snuggle…sniff..it hurts.
Your sadness, Mandy, only tells you how much joy you’ve had with them. Understanding that, which you do, makes you see that there is so much more joy that awaits you … perhaps from a different view … but a trio unsevered nonetheless. You have invited us into a sweet reminiscence … as well as a therapeutic monologue. I hope you are as better for having said it, as I am for having read your words.
Oh yes! You have so beautifully described the deep sense of yearning for the past and looking forward to the future with them as our children grow into their own. It is such a sweet sadness of accepting the present.
Thank you so much: Athena, for your support and friendship. Tess, for coming forward. Not that I’m glad you suffer too, but for offering me the reinforced knowledge that I’m not alone in feeling this. Roger, for your beautiful words. I cried more. And Nancy, because I know you’ve been through this and come out on the other side with three amazing adult children. You and Ed are my heroes. Thank you all. It’s so good to hear from you.
Beautifully said. And what you said resonates with me as a familiar ache that comes and goes as they turn thirty and forty also.