I tried to hide it from her, but the tears came anyway. Harder, faster, accompanied by sobs, louder than I expected. But make no mistake; they were expected.
We had just checked into our motel room. A place to recover for the night. We’d attend church the next morning. And then we would leave my daughter behind. In a dorm room. On the brink of an adulthood I hoped she was well-prepared for.
My thoughts cascaded over the memories of all of our ‘firsts’ together. Her first steps. Her first bike ride. Her first car. She taught me everything I knew about motherhood. We had grown up together. But how did it happen so fast?
On that day back in 2003, it was the voice of my nine-year-old who brought me back to reality. Her curls bounced as she jumped on the bed-allowed in motel rooms, apparently. At least by the time the third child comes along.
She noticed my tears, my sobs and understood the reasons for them. She halted in mid-bed-jumping-celebration.
“It’s okay, Mommy. You still have me to play with.”
Healing words to a mother’s ear. To a mother’s heart.
Now, nine years later, it’s her turn. Graduation looms just around the corner for our youngest child. And the tears keep coming.
Again, my thoughts cascade over the memories of our ‘firsts’ together, then turns into a waterfall of our ‘lasts.’ Our last mother-daughter date. Our last inside joke. Her last birthday party.
She is ‘a Dult’ now, as she used to refer to grown-ups. Still giggly, and the first to jump on the bed if the opportunity presented itself. But one of the most amazing ‘Dults’ you will ever meet, even if God hasn’t put the finishing touches on her just yet. She will be fine; because of her heart, her soul, which oozes into everything she does.
But where does that leave me?
I can’t help but wonder who I will play with.
I stand on the brink of something. Unidentifiable. Something I’ve never felt before, as a mother.
The empty nest. It’s what happens if you do your job well. If you raise your children to be able to live their lives without you.
A moment of heartbreaking triumph.
Kind of like a graduation ceremony of our own. A fork in the road where we take separate paths. And just like my daughter, it might be easier, less frightening, to focus on our past accomplishments than to ponder the unknowns of our separate futures.
Don’t get me wrong. I relish the thought of rediscovering a life with my husband, who has sacrificed everything to get us to this point. The empty nest, our nest, will still be a place of laughter, love and harmony. A place they want to come home to, from time to time.
But it will be different now. My entire adult life has been invested into being someone’s mother. If my kids were doing well, I was doing well. I was one of the cool moms amongst my teenage friends. Sitting at the Popular Moms table, if you will. Sensing the world through teen-aged eyes, through teen-aged hearts.
I am thrilled and amazed at the ‘Dults’ our kids have turned out to be. This planet is a much better place with the three of them on it, and I’m not the only one who feels this way. Though I am admittedly the most vocal about it.
We have truly all grown up together. We are Dults now.
Shhhh. Don’t tell my kids, but being a Dult sure hurts sometimes.
But I’ve never been more proud.