Speaking to my husband tonight about something completely unrelated to parenting, all of a sudden I found myself shifting to a different subject entirely as I seemingly out of nowhere just started explaining how hard it is being a mother. There wasn’t even a brief gravitation away from what he was saying and when I was done, my voice was broken from sobbing, my face was covered in tears, and my last words were, “… because it’s hard for me to know how to let her go and I feel like I can’t breathe.” My heart was hurting. And the badass in me was screaming WHAT THE HELL PART OF THE STORY IS THIS???
When they were little kids, it was so easy. Being Mommy was the greatest thing because I was magic in their eyes. I baked brownies and birthday cakes, took them to the park, and opened my home to a dozen or more kids a day no matter where we’ve lived. By the time my oldest was seven or eight, I had this whole parenting thing figured out. I was an expert. My kids were grateful, well mannered, polite, and kind. They were generous and respectful – never forgetting their pleases and thank yous or their ma’ams and sirs. Then they kept growing. And they were everything I raised them to be.
When my oldest hit her preteens, I had to learn some things over and adjust to this new era of age appropriateness. I mastered that new arena well and by the time she hit 13, I had parenting all figured out again. Our kids were great – honor roll, no behavioral problems. They were everything I encouraged them to be.
But over the last couple of years, it’s been one surprise after the other. With three teenagers, a preteen, and a seven year old, I’ve felt and thought things I’ve never experienced before. Now my oldest daughter – my first born – will be turning 16 in exactly two weeks and my emotions are everywhere. Handing her life over to her to begin piloting? Putting her in charge of protecting herself from the things I never had to consider not being there to protect her from?? She’s my baby! But she isn’t…
I’m trying to reign myself in, “Get it together, Kathleen… You’re a savage!” lol For the first time since I became Mommy, I can’t figure it out; parenting at this stage is written in a foreign language that I thought I knew fluently but now I can’t grasp the dialect – I’ve been raising 5 kids for over a decade and a half… How can I not know what I’m doing? I never prepared myself for mothering myself through this stage. I’m realizing that as her mother I’m not raising her anymore – my primary task now is to parent myself – guiding myself through withdrawing my presence and relinquishing that power.
And I’ve got to trust that I gave her enough – lessons… talks… information… wisdom… love – for her to survive on her own, make her own way, and find her own happiness.
She’s beautiful. Talented. She’s intelligent and creative. She is witty, sarcastic, and her smile is infectious. Her personality can be as dry as the summer blacktop or as inviting as the gates of heaven themselves. She is autonomous and so independent, but she’s impressionable and she loves to try new things. She is sincere and she’s loyal, but she’s fiercely passionate and wants to make her entire life a memory to be revered.
Briyana has such a enigmatic exterior… she is mysterious and the moment you think you have her figured out, it’s like she senses that it’s time for an inner revolution. It all changes – all but that smile. Her eyes and that smile reassure you that she’s always been in there, the same little 8 year old girl I had pegged half-her-lifetime ago and that fundamentally, I know her – and she knows I know her. She’s still witty. She’s still funny. She’s still that same little girl whose first sound pierced my core in a place that could never heal and the intensity of that love taught me everything I know about what it really is to be alive.
But still, she’s different. And ever evolving. She possesses a depth that she is not usually compelled to show… She is strong, smart, aware. She’s an athlete, competitive and determined. She is inquisitive and challenging, almost instinctively receiving into her lungs the very aura that surrounds her and leaving an impression of herself in the air. She is a thinker – competent and sensible. But she’s a feeler – sensitive and compassionate. She is everything I raised her to be.
She’s a “fixer” … the kind of spirit that realizes that there is a self-healing quality about mending broken people. She doesn’t adopt tradition and she questions why things are the way they are before she believes they should be that way. She isn’t afraid of her individuality and her soul is wildly free, comfortable, and confident. She is everything I taught her to be… so why is this all so hard? Why do I feel like I’ve not done my job? Why do I feel like it’s all wrong? Why am I so uncertain?
I find myself holding on tighter these days than I ever did before. I find myself dreading her leaving the house. My heart is in a panic. Did I raise her right? Did I miss anything? There has to be something I never said… and it will be the one thing she needed me to say. I’m irrational and I am afraid. I don’t know how to ease myself into the reality that it’s time to learn to let her go, to loosen the grip, and recognize that she isn’t closed in my world anymore. She has her own…
And that makes it hard for me to breathe.