“Today, my baby, the youngest of my six children, turned 13,” so started my Facebook post this morning. Where did the years go? A season in my life, 35 years dedicated to raising my children, begins to transition into the years when I face the last three of my children growing up and leaving home (19, 17 and 13) and then I will be alone. In the blink of an eye, so it seems, children are grown, and it breaks the heart. Then, the place that they filled 24/7 for all of those years begins to be filled with new things. The celebration of wonderful adult children, that they make good choices, are responsible, and are able to pursue happiness replaces the daily care and concerns of child-rearing. The happiness itself is subjective, comes and goes from day to day but you celebrate that they have a life where they can pursue their dreams.
I know. I am a few years from being an empty nester, but by the age of 13 a young man has begun to pull away and become his own person. The apron strings are hanging by a thread and you know that any moment the disconnection will happen, and then he is gone.
My oldest will be 35 this summer. His heart belongs to another, and rightly so. He has been married for almost 8 years, has his own child, and a wonderful life with his family. I celebrate his life, but miss being close (we are 1800 miles apart).
I have a basic philosophy of parenting: When your child is born you feel a love like no other love; it is all-consuming for a time. You pour your life into this child. Then he/she grows up and breaks your heart.
It is inevitable. The only way to love a child is with everything in your being. You can’t hold back, or at least I can’t. As time goes by, as they grow up and start that almost imperceptible pulling away, it feels as though there is this huge void, this massive place in your life where that child was central. It isn’t really an empty place because a mother’s love never wanes. It is transformed. It becomes knowing. It becomes wisdom. It becomes compassion. It becomes empathy, caring, and gentleness. It becomes so many things that didn’t live there before the child arrived. Although
having a child grow up and leave home feels like a loss, it isn’t. It is the greatest act of giving you will ever do. You give your child to the world, to their destiny, to their future loves, to their careers, to their experiences. You give your child away. It only feels like he is being ripped from your arms because it comes so quickly and feels so abrupt. But five years is a long time, you say. No, it isn’t. It is but a moment. I will blink and my baby will be on his own.
I celebrate a birth today. I celebrate a life. I celebrate a future. And I might be ready to give this son of mine to the world in a few years. Just maybe.