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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Leaving Home and Leaving Me Behind

How To Break Your Mother's Heart...





The Ding Dong School Daze is upon me and here I stand on the curb, waving good-bye, a brave smile plastered on my face, and tears welling up behind a fragile facade. 

My child is leaving home. Backpack full of newly sharpened pencils and unopened boxes of crayons, the sixty-four pack. Dressed in first-day-of-school-primly-pressed-spanking-new-just-out-of-the-mall classroom chic. Wrestling and wriggling out of my hugs with a wave over your shoulder.

Bye Mom.

Leaving Home began long before this touching moment. This heart aching, soul breaking, tender lingering good-bye. I knew that it was coming. I did. I simply had no idea that it would come so soon. That the time from there...holding you close in my arms, watching you take your first breath, holding my own as you took your first step, to here...letting go of your hand...

...would fly away like Peter Pan in our bedtime story...

I look back now, at the parenting books, and the long lectures in pre-natal classes, about when the parent-child bonding begins. At birth, they said. The minute I saw your face, they said. They were wrong. Maybe for some, but personally speaking, I think those people are lying through their sleep-deprived toothy smiles. 

The truth is that love at first sight is a myth. At first sight, at first light, all is a blur, a bundle and crying. Lots and lots of crying. Unreadable, un-understandable, uncontrollable crying. Sleepless nights and mixed up days, trying trying trying to figure out what you want, what you need, what to do, when and where and how. Trial and error. Error and trial. Questions and questions and questions. What worked an hour ago doesn't work now. What you are little one is a huge responsibility, a life in my care, a crying, uncomfortable tiny being whose needs must be met.

In truth, WE haven't met yet. 

Then comes the day. 

The day of parent and child. The first meeting, when life as we both knew it, changes forever. It is the day, you look at me, turn your head to the sound of my voice, and smile. At me. Your Mom

The day you become irrevocably mine. 

The day I become irrevocably yours. 

The exact day the clock begins to tick tick tick and the journey begins step step step from here to there. From there to here. From our loving embrace and your precious face, to the open door, to the world needing you more. And if I do my job, as parents are wont to do, this is the best job I will ever do. I never had an interview. No one read my resume. Someone just assumed I would be qualified. I think that was me.

So I clapped the day you stood on wobbly legs. I tucked anxious helping hands into my pockets, when you took your first step. I dusted you off, dried your tears, and kissed the scrape on your knee when you fell. I ran alongside your bicycle, drew a deep breath and watched your tires wibble wobble on your solo flight. 

I packed your suitcase with your blanket and your bear. Your first sleepover. Rolled your sleeping bag, and packed your kit, for away-from-home camp. Walked past your empty room, turned back and lingered in the doorway, comforted that by letting you roam, you would, at least this time, return home. 

I survived the first day of school and even the last. Bickered and quarreled on the days in between, reeling you out and reeling you in. I was a safe place for you to land. A practice field. A warm-up before the first pitch. The umpire, in a life-is-not-always-fair, fight. Knowing what was coming made us both itch. 

No, not the day you backed down the driveway. No, not that day. 

No, not the day you met your first sweetheart and cast me aside.

Ah, not even then. 

I kept my watch. I stayed awake until your key was in the door. I believed that my prayers kept your plane up in the sky and my telepathy made you call home when you landed. I even thought that I could slick down your hair for school pictures with the power of my spit. 

Eyes in the back of my head. You, a constant blip on my radar. An endless game of chess, plotting my next move, before you made one. 

You and I. 

We have been practicing for a long long time. 

And here you are, on the end of my fingertips. 

Sliding slowly away. Growing ever up

It is time for you to leave. Time to let you go. 

Once more, a piece of my heart is aching, a part of me is breaking, and you'll forgive me if the vision I see, is not all grown up, ready and able. What I see, standing here, standing still, is you waving over your shoulder on the first day of school.

When I left you with a vow.

The very same vow I'm repeating right now.

"Leaving Home"©

To my child on leaving home.

I plan to help you pack your suitcase,

and I will hold your hand as you head for the door,

but the only thing I am letting go of,

is your hand.

I plan on holding you in my heart forever. 


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