She hasn’t left yet but I miss her already.
[This post is a collaboration]
The other day I looked through the trunk of baby things that’s stored underneath the bed. I kept just a few special items that I would like to pass down to my own grandchildren one day (hopefully, if I have some!). Many of them were hand knitted by my mother so they form a chain of connecting memories from one generation down to another. There are four baby blankets, one that wrapped each of my four children, and tiny knitted cardigans. There are also a few babygo’s, mainly for baby girls but also some baby boy clothes for my one son amongst three sisters.
I looked for but couldn’t find a tiny red and white stripy beanie I bought on my first pregnancy, before I knew whether I was expecting a boy or a girl. Then obviously I had no idea that before long I’d have to stop buying only for myself and shop baby girl clothes for another nineteen years because today my first ‘baby’ turns 19!
You know that thing about the 18 summers – you know the one that says we only have 18 summers with our children so we need to make each one count? It’s not true! For many parents it’s many more than 18 summers, but in our case it was fewer.
When I first heard it I dismissed it as sentimental nonsense – most modern Irish parents have their children hanging around their homes and their necks until they are in their early 20s. In fact, no matter how hard they wished it, the
blighters lovelies just won’t leave.
Well, it was a sudden scary shock for me when I discovered that the 18 summers turned out to be only 17 when that summer two years ago we were told that alternative holiday plans had been made without us. While I was delighted that she felt confident enough to go off with her friends, I did miss her terribly that holiday without her. I was filled with doubts, was she old enough? Would she be safe? Had I made the right decision by allowing her independence?
Now I am wondering, is it just me or do you also sometimes feel like you’re a spectator to your children’s lives? Do you also get that feeling that you are not in the race but only standing on the side lines, while you cheer them on into their future? I guess I have felt like that since they were babies, watching over their sleeping forms wondering how I was put in charge of these delicate precious creatures. And then later as they played their imaginative games with their siblings which didn’t involve me.
It’s an odd thing because on the other hand I am deeply entrenched in their lives, fully engaged in the intricacies of their individual personalities, feeling their pain acutely, one hundred percent absorbed by their needs and even overwhelmed at times by the demands and emotions.
And yet this distance too…
They are themselves, separate to and apart from me.
The umbilical cord of parental dependence has become so stretched thin it is negligible, a phantom.
Now she is nineteen. She only has a few weeks of school left and then she plans to head off on a series of travel and study adventures (Covid-willing) that involve foreign countries, different hemispheres and many, many miles of distance between us. There is no way that umbilical cord would safely stretch that far and yes, I know its high time I allowed it to fade away.
But these past few months have been hard as she makes preparations to leave. She hasn’t left yet but I miss her already.
I know that we can’t hold onto our kids for ever, we can hug them while we can, if they allow us, but after they leave, mostly all we can hold onto is the memories.
Part of my sadness of seeing her go is rooted in my own past as I left home just after I turned 18. Aside from varsity holidays and a brief few months stay after overseas travel, I never lived at my parent’s home again. Now I have moved to a different continent from my mum and at times it’s hard for us to be so far apart. And then there’s a part of me that grieves with those dear ones close to me who have lost their children, who have no present or future with them, only past memories to cling to. I am grateful for what I have right now.
So I still haven’t found that beanie, it might be lost, but it’s ok as it is just a thing that symbolises a memory. I can let go of the things and hold onto the memories instead.
On her birthday today I aim to try my best to be mindful of every moment as we celebrate her life, past, present and future. This day will form part of that valuable catalogue of memories I plan to carry forwards and she too hopefully. We have the present to make the most of because in the future, we may only have memories of the past.