I know I said I was finished with this topic, or finished dragging everyone through it with me, but this was too good to pass up. My boss read the paper before me today and suggested I wait to read the editorial page until my lunch break which she knows I take in my office with the door closed. So, hankie alert and full speed ahead, I share this with you-
August 25, 2009
Letting go is hard but brings understanding
By Pam Platt
Everyone thinks you're being silly, that you really need to move on and get over these things. It's not as if your daughter is going to school all the way across the country, they say, and it's not as if you didn't do this last year when she moved out for the first time.
But after the summer you spent together, which seems a luxury now that it's over, you're a little caught by the surprise of how much the second time got to you, too. You helped her to pack up and move out for her sophomore year in college, and there it was again:
The clutch around your heart, the squeeze around your throat, the tightness around your eyes, the hug you gave that lasted a beat, or two, too long before you closed her dorm-room door behind you.
She will be 20 years old very soon. What part of letting go don't you understand?
The future is not a distant landmark anymore. It's wiping its feet on the welcome mat before it saunters in.
So a week or so before you are to give her up again, you have an intense conversation, about life, about choices, about concerns.
She stops you cold with four words: “Mom, you raised me.”
The four words are meant to reassure. They do and they don't.
She is, in your eyes, a glorious, exquisite young woman. You could not be prouder.
But you are not quite as confident of your parenting skills as she seems to be.
And you also remember some of what you did when you were her age.
And you hear and feel, in those four words, a past tense that won't let go.
“Raised,” she said.
That future that's wiping its feet on the welcome mat?
That's not just her future. It's your future, too.
Suddenly, all your fuss makes more sense, and here's what part of letting go you're starting to understand.
If you are thinking about her next steps, you don't have to think about yours — but you still have to take them.
If you are facing her questions, you are not facing yours — and they don't go away.
Who are you when you are not being her mother?
Does the person you were, all those years ago, before she came into the world, even exist anymore?
The answer to the first is: You're not sure.
The answer to the second is: You don't think so.
Neither answer is bad or wrong, and you know that because of the four words your daughter said to you, the ones that stopped you cold.
You consider another version of them, one that's true about the life you have lived for almost 20 years and the one that lies ahead:
“Daughter, you raised me, too.”
When they put her in your arms, for you to take her home from the hospital, you had no idea what you were doing. You just knew that you had to be there for this little person, and if that meant making it up as you went along, then that's what you did. You tried, sometimes you failed, you tried again. You juggled and you bobbled and sometimes you dropped the ball, and sometimes you fielded line drives. You wish you had kept one of those milestones books for yourself over the years, like the red one the pediatrician gave you for your daughter's transitions. You wish you had marked down when it was, and why, you learned humility, and trust, and faith, along the way.
You realize, as you ease back into your emptier house, that being a mother has taught you how to let go of being a mother and how to take the first steps toward your next self:
You will make it up as you go along. You will fail sometimes. You will try again. Tomorrow will dawn. Armed with the humility, trust and faith you earned, like stripes on your sleeves, you will try something else, and something else, and something else, until it works.
And the daughter you raised?
She has juggled her schedule, she says, so the two of you can spend an afternoon together in the coming weeks.
And you smile.
Pam Platt's column appears Tuesdays in the Community Forum. Call her at (502) 582-4578; e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Platt is an editorial writer and columnist for The Courier-Journal. Call her at (502) 582-4578; e-mail her at email@example.com