It might have been high summer, the tiny daises and violet weeds speckling the lawn, or one of those perfect warm autumn days, every fallen leaf in perfect contrast to the green grass below. We were still in the strangely blurred phase of long days and longer nights and milestones measured in months. I know for sure that the sun bright, and that I was acutely aware of our small yard, vibrant with growth and change as my little girl toddled down the uneven concrete front path with her hand tucked in someone else’s. She was happy, going to the park, and did not look back. The world felt at once very large and very fragile.
Our downstairs neighbour was outside too and asked me if it felt strange to let her go. Still more baby than child, she was rarely apart from me.
“No,” I replied. Maybe it was the sleeplessness. I was poised inside the moment and totally calm. “This is what we are supposed to help them learn to do.” It was just that this was one of the first times I was so conscious of watching it happen. The letting her go. Knowing I would have to do it, over and over, until she could one day do it all on her own. It was unnerving. And it was good.
Our work as mothers is to make ourselves obsolete. From the very beginning, we are saying goodbye all the time: to the vulnerable newborn when we celebrate the first lift of their tender chin, to the baby gummy smiles when the teeth finally arrive, to the wobbly crawler when we cheer their first steps, to having them at arm’s length when we celebrate the training wheels coming off, to childhood’s soft cheeks when the hormones shape them anew, to our whole hearts when they walk away from us and toward their own futures. It is our job and our joy to welcome every one of these changes even as the emotions shatter us a little every time.
Last Halloween, her last in high school, my daughter dressed up over at a friend’s house. We were long beyond dress up, finished with make believe and wicked witches, and I was mostly okay with that. Besides, I could mostly still cajole my family into indulgence of Halloween fun. Yet I spent that day perilously close to tears, scowling uncharacteristically at every adorable little Batman and sparkly zombie princess. It wasn’t just that I didn’t get to play that morning. I wanted one more chaotic Halloween afternoon with desperate inventive forays into our old wooden trunk full of fairy wings and tulle, one more lighting of the off-kilter grinning pumpkins, one more Halloween with the curve of her cheek pressed against my palm, breathing carefully to get the whiskers coloured on straight. I knew that improv costuming and giggling in the bathroom with friends was good and right and exactly where she should be, but what the mind knows is quite different from what the heart wants. And I wanted back my little sprite swinging her bucket of candy and dashing, giddy, up and down the neighbourhood.
I wanted it all not to have passed so fast.
Motherhood is never over. It changes and evolves and grows just as it has all along, in tandem with those who made us mothers in the first place. And every transition is also a celebration. Of our children, their successes and their growth. Their job is to go. Ours is to help them get there, to the endings and the beginnings and all that happens in between.
Even so. There are moments still when the world feels very large and very fragile all at once.
This is my last post for the earnestgirl chronicles. Erica’s invitation to write for YummyMummyClub as her first featured blogger was a challenge I was excited to accept. It has been wonderful — a place to incubate ideas, an opportunity to reach beyond the small space that mothering a small child had often made me feel confined to, and wonderfully, I have been able to listen to the reply. I have loved that the most I think. Hearing other mothers tell me they have felt less alone, or crazy, or that they have laughed or been moved by something I have written is a thrill every time. Thank you for reading. Thank you being part of a community that supports the impossibly gorgeous, crazy-making, wrenching, profoundly joyful ever-evolving role of being a mother.