As Mother’s Day draws to a close, I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be the Mom that I am. I don’t say this to imply that I’m the be-all-and-end-all of mothers; instead, I say this because when I look into the faces of my sons, I know how blessed I am. What they have given me reaches so far beyond the flowers, cards, and gifts they shower me with every year. They have given me twenty years of love and laughter, tears and joy, hugs and kisses, worry lines, gray hairs, the proudest heart. Not every day is easy…and, let’s be real, some days are really no fun at all, but I wouldn’t trade it. Not even the bad days. It’s all part of the mother-child package. Like runny noses, dirty hands, peanut butter kisses, teenage angst, and leaving the nest. Yes, leaving the nest.
As Moms, we all know that the day will come when our children will leave the safe, comfortable nest that we’ve created for them. In fact, we start preparing them for it almost as soon as we bring them home from the hospital. We try to get them to go to sleep on their own, to feed themselves, dress themselves, tie their own shoes. Soon we are letting them walk to school alone, we teach them to drive, we help them select a college. We hope that they learn manners, and confidence, and inner strength…but all the while we are teaching this, our Mom instinct tells us to hold their hands and hold them close, take care of them, do for them, and protect them from the dangers and uncertainties of the big, bad world. The psychologist/philosopher Erich Fromm said “The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.” He was right. As a Mom, we love so deeply. Our children are our world. We cry when they cry, hurt when they hurt, laugh when they laugh, dream when they dream. They are an extension of who we are. And I think it’s that closeness, that connection, that makes it so hard for us to let them go, and why it feels like a piece of our heart is missing when they are gone. And I also believe that it is this intense love and connection that gives our children the strength to fly away.
Last week my oldest son left the nest. It was hard, but I know it was the right time. I could feel my heart break when he drove away after packing the moving van, and I could feel my stomach knot when I walked into his empty room. I could feel the lump in my throat when he stopped me from putting his groceries away, gently putting his arms around me and saying “Mom, you don’t have to do everything anymore.” And I could feel the tears flowing when it was time to say good-bye. For twenty years, he lived in my home, and now he has his own home. He’s taking a chance, spreading his wings, and learning to fly. Am I ready? I’m not sure. But he is, and that means that I’ve done the job that I was supposed to do…I gave him his wings. Yesterday, for the first time, I got a Mother’s Day card that he sent through the mail, instead of placing into my hands. And inside was a hand-written note. It read “I will always be grateful for the one who taught me how to fly. I love you Mom.”
I love him too. I love them all–my fine young men. And I know I will have to watch them all fly away someday. And I hope they all know that no matter how old they are or how far they go, I will always be with them…holding them close when they need my strength, cheering for them when they need my encouragement, loving them when they need their Mom.
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. i’ll always be with you.” Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh