(From the archive but an appropriate thought during back to school days.)
Two female acquaintances see each other in Shop-Rite. Their eyes lock before filling with tears. Their brains register with the same thought, the same realization, the same sadness. They are mothers. Their children have just graduated 5th grade, leaving the younger part of childhood behind. As the kids experience growing pains, the mothers are too.
People tell us all the time to enjoy the kids while they’re young. We do. And as much as we want to absorb EVERY FIBER, EVERY MOMENT of their childhood, it’s impossible. There are too many and our brains just can’t do it. Besides, absorbing those moments won’t bring them back. That’s life.
But I wasn’t prepared for the pain this part of motherhood brings. The natural progression of my children away from me is immensely painful just as being with them, watching them, is exquisite. The pain is always present, of course. Most of the time I’m able to push it away along with other painful truths like the inevitability of death. The pain of growth becomes acute again on every birthday, theirs or mine, as I realize we’re moving toward some excruciating farewells.
At my son’s 5th grade graduation yesterday, I could not stop the tears from flowing. He is growing into a wonderful person whom I cannot fathom myself without. He is on the precipice of the difficult years of puberty. He has his whole life ahead of him; much of it he will spend without me by his side. Sure, I’ll be there as a reference, as a safety net, but I’m gradually losing him. He is afraid. I am afraid. And I am sad.
Yet clutching my precious son to me is not an option. He is a separate entity, as he should be, as he must be. He cannot be held back. Just as the sun comes up day after day, even as something life-changing happens, we both have to go on. His growth is a beautiful, miraculous thing.
Mothers, for centuries, have faced the approaching empty nest. In my town alone, 450 of us are getting ready to transition our preschoolers into elementary school; another 450 are prepping our elementary school kids to go to middle school. The same number are getting ready to send their kids to high school, while even more are preparing theirs to head off to college. Schools, of course, focus on the kids
I wish someone would focus on us moms. While the dads at my son’s graduation all seemed genuinely happy for their kids, the women all looked like pale, ghost-like. We feel it more deeply, whether our children are biological or adopted. We feel the changing of the growing seasons in every fiber of our beings. We weep. We mourn the gradual loss of our children. It’s natural. But that doesn’t make it any less painful.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog, by L. Klonsky, aka MomsCrayon.
Photo credit given to Oprah.