I suppose this post is less of a “tip” and more of a “‘quip”… or perhaps, more aptly put, simply the latest in my musings on motherhood….
Last month, the “baby” of one of my good friends turned five. “Hey,” she said to me, “we made it! We did it! We don’t have babies anymore.” Her tone was a bit more sad than celebratory as we both reflected on her words. It was true. We made it. We did it! We survived sleepless nights, “terrible twos”, potty training and preschool. And somehow, that made us both just a little bit sad as we looked at the frolicking five-year olds in front of us.
Two weeks ago, a woman I work with was talking about her son. Her “baby” is enjoying his first year of college. In so many ways, she felt like she did it. She made it. She survived 18 years of motherhood, the last few punctuated by band practices and college applications. She raised a responsible young man who is studying at the school of his dreams. Finally, she can sleep at night. Until that night when the phone rang. The road was icy. The car spun out. Thank God everyone was ok. But sleepless nights have returned. The worry is back.
A few days ago, we took our clan out to dinner. It was the first day of spring, my husband just finished a huge project for work and last but not least, we had five (FIVE!) good report cards to celebrate. As we ambled into the restaurant, we bumped into friends dining solo – just the parents; no kids. “They didn’t want to come with us,” he said. “One is babysitting, one is at a friend’s house and one just doesn’t like to be seen with us,” she said. This got me thinking. Yikes. That could be us one day. One day much sooner than I expect. Or am ready for.
Last Monday, I met my parents, my brother and his girlfriend for St. Patrick’s Day – a holiday near and dear to our Irish roots. We met for lunch, took in the parade and then went to warm up over a cold pint and clever conversation. When my brother and his girlfriend left, I noticed my mom’s eyes well up with tears. “What is it Mom?” “He’s happy,” she said. “I’m just so glad he’s happy.” And that’s when I realized, this parenthood thing never ends.
Until, perhaps, the unthinkable happens and it does. They say no parent should outlive a child, but it happens. And from what I can tell, there’s nothing worse.
Yesterday, we went to a memorial service. He was 50; Mom was 80. Give or take a few years. It doesn’t matter. It was heart-wrenching. Gut wrenching. Tragic. Wrong. Incomprehensible. I suppose you might say he was a grown man. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was a son, her son. The sad sad scene reminded me of a favorite bedtime story we read when our children were younger, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, which has a line that repeats again and again:
I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.
These words brought tears to my eyes each time we read it, as they do now. As they did last night, when I watched a mother say a final good-bye to her son.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed other mother’s milestones on this journey we call parenthood – rites of passage: turning five; going to college; seeking independence; finding happiness. It’s what we wish for our children. And then it struck me, at some point all of our wishes are for our children. For their health and happiness. For their longevity.
It doesn’t always work out that way. And so, with another mother’s pain etched firmly in my memory, all I can do is try harder to live in the moment as I prepare for the rocky road ahead, for the inevitable twists and turns of motherhood. Knowing, as I do, that always and forever, my babies they’ll be.