Recalling a mother's gift
This morning was the first time in 22 years my husband and I woke up without a child in the house. It felt empty. We needed the physical presence our two dogs and Cozy, the cat, in bed with us. The house was way too quiet. Where were the sounds of the combat boots banging up and down the stairs? What about the last-minute yelling for missing assignments or clothing? We'd slept past seven and hadn't even heard the high school bus pause at the end of our driveway to see if Lila, our daughter, was tumbling out to meet it.
" I miss the kids."
"I do too."
"What do you think they are doing now?"
We're somewhat used to our son, Sam, leaving home. He's been at college for three years now. But it's always hard to watch his car, packed to the roof, pull away from the house. It's not that I want him to stay. I want him out in the world, and I miss him when he's gone.
Now Lila, our youngest, is away for a semester participating in an experiential program called Cityterm. She's living at a boarding school on the Hudson River and has a view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from her window. Three times a week, the students take the train into New York City and use the city as their classroom. It's a perfect antidote to Island life for a teenager who wants to inhale urban life and culture.
There are plenty of things to like about this change. My husband and I enjoy one another, and now we can do so without interruption. We can eat differently. We can make our own schedules. We're not negotiating or renegotiating plans or possible plans. We're not driving all over the Island dropping and fetching. The phone isn't ringing constantly.
Do I really miss listening to heavy metal and being a chauffeur and arguing about boundaries? Possibly not, but I'm glad this is just a dress rehearsal. Lila will most likely be back on the Island for her senior year before the big launch off to college. This pause gives us time to value the quiet and to fully celebrate how much we love the vitality of our children.
I wish my mother were alive so I could apologize to her. I went away to school too as a high school student. She would drive from home in Washington, D.C., to visit me and be full of my news and accomplishments and life. One time, embarrassed by such praise and interest in front of my friends, I rudely asked her if she had anything going on in her own life. Why was it she needed to focus so much on me?
Now, of course, I understand that why. She was both proud of me, and she missed me. She was happy I had the opportunities I had, but they came at some cost to her. She missed all the vitality and energy and discovery that having a teenager in the house brings, for better and for worse. Her gift was letting me go and being my biggest fan.