What Comes Next

I’ve been busy having my midlife crisis. The times a certainly are a changin’ at my house. My oldest daughter, to whom I have been attached cord, breast, and always heart, is graduating from our state’s university in less than a month. In July, she’ll move five hours away to attend medical school. My purely sweet youngest daughter, who needed me so much when she was ill, is now a thriving university student who is making her natural break from home and talking marriage with her long-time boyfriend. While I’m sad that the hands-on mothering stage of my life is coming to a close, I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m in complete awe of both of them, and in total wonderment of the natural progression of something that I didn’t experience. They are easing gently into adulthood without skipping any steps.

My entrance into adulthood felt abrupt. Its evolution seemed to move from my mother being sick, to my mother dying, to my father selling our family home and moving in with his girlfriend. The fact that I was a junior in college without a place to go home to on weekends, holidays and summers didn’t faze my father who was of the old school mindset of “18 and out.” While my life certainly wasn’t as difficult as the lives of some, I found myself thrust into adulthood with an incomplete copy of life’s survival manual.

Now as my daughters grow past the age when I became motherless, I marvel at what comes next. I experience with them, and through them, what my mother and I didn’t. I will see them walk across stages to get diplomas and possibly down aisles to get married. I will be privy to their life plans, listen to their worries, and guide them in solving their problems. They will never wonder where they will spend a holiday, or feel a mournful longing when a coworker speaks of “going back home” for the weekend.

As I write this I am sad, sad for my mother who so wanted me, and sad for the girl I was when I lost her. Yet, in my gloom I feel the distinct joy than one can only feel when they have been given a gift most though-out and meaningful. It is the gift of watching my daughters reach adulthood whole and prepared. The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must. It is the gift of watching them stand on the precipice of adulthood confident that their first steps won’t be into a swirling abyss of the unknown. But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.

10 thoughts on “What Comes Next

  1. This is beautiful. I got goosebumps as I read this, and am wiping tears from my eyes now I’ve finished it.

    “But mostly, it’s the gift of knowing that if a page is missing from their life’s survival manual, they have the skills to rewrite it, and if they are unsure of the correct words, I’m just a phone call away.”

    I hope I’ll be able to say the same about my son, when that time comes.

    • Thank you, Deborah. I was crying while I wrote it :(. You absolutely will be able to say the same about your son. I think people who have had some struggles try even harder to make sure that their own children don’t experience the same strife.

      • This is so true. I remember one of my mom’s cousins saying in shock, “Your kids turned out so well!” My mom didn’t respond to the back-handed part of the comment. Instead, she sighed wistfully and said, “You just always hope they’ll have it better than you did.” Thanks to her, we did. Also thanks to her, we have the tools to make sure our children have it better still.

        When we sold my childhood home last month, there were a lot of struggles around that. The day before the sale concluded, I thought about what I was going to do with my portion of the money. It wasn’t a huge amount, but it was hugely significant and I set it aside for spending in ways that would truly honor my mom’s memory. The one that really moved me that afternoon was the part I meant to set aside for my son, and the equal amount set aside for future “#2.” Without warning, it was like a door in my heart opened. I was transported back to my mom’s house in the final weeks of her life, specifically to a moment in the dark hours of the morning where she couldn’t speak but listened to my hardships, scooted over on her head and put her head on my knee. She was comforting me. Even in the midst of all that pain, she was comforting me.

        In that room, in my memory but also somehow that moment, I sat down and told my mom, with none of the sorrow of that moment, “Guess what, Ma? Thanks to your struggles to keep a roof over our heads, and everything you sacrificed, you’re helping pay for your grandkids’ education. You didn’t just make life better for us, you made life better for all the generations to come.”

        I was seventeen when I overheard my mom talking to her cousin. It didn’t mean much to me then, but I hold that comment close to my heart now and cherish how committed my mom was to that dream.

        I was so afraid I’d be like my dad, but in the end I should’ve known it would be my mom’s example that lit my heart. From the moment he was laid on my chest, I knew I could stop fearing. And I so, so look forward to my siblings becoming parents, so they too can know the peace of letting go of that fear, and the magic of ushering a little life into a future full of hope, laughter and unceasing love.

        Thank you so much for sharing these words. Like I said in my other comment a few minutes ago, this post was a lighthouse to me. Once you’ve seen that light flash, you’re a little closer to finding your way home.


      • Deborah, I’m so sorry you lost your mom at such a young age for you both, and I’m sorry that she suffered so. Losing your mom is a terrible thing at any age. It’s wonderful that you were able to let your mom know what she taught you and how you would use the gift of your inheritance to make life better for her grandchildren. While the image of her comforting you tears me up with greif, you and I both know that we would be doing the same for our children. About a year before my mom died, she told me that the thing that made her the saddest was how much she would miss my brother and I when she was gone. I had been so absorbed in my losing her, that I failed to think about how she must have felt knowing she would soon leave us. I’m sure your mom’s only desire was to comfort you. 🙂 I can tell you’re a wonderful mom. Your son is very lucky! 🙂

  2. Well said, and touching.

    At the risk of sounding stupid, I think most people believe they are thrust into adulthood. Nobody thinks they’re ready for all of the adult responsibilities. But I don’t mean to take away from your message, which was heartfelt and beautiful, and about your individual experience. Beautiful writing.

    • Thank you. 🙂 I totally agree with your comment. Leaving the nest is an individual experience for everyone, and while parts of it are exciting, other parts are quite eye-opening for everyone! I appreciate your visiting my blog.

  3. “The gift of watching the apron strings between us gently thin from love and wear, and dangle as ties between mother and child eventually must.” That is one of the most beautiful quotes about motherhood I have ever read.

  4. Wow, like Deborah, I started crying when I read this. It is a beautiful piece. Being a daughter has been difficult for me. While I try to be a dutiful daughter, my mother and I have never had an easy relationship, the kind I used to see so many of my friends experience with their own mothers. And as a mother to one son, I try really hard not to reproduce those kinds of silly squabbles, he is a boy. And there are places he will not let me in. It’s okay. It’s just been a bumpy ride.

    Roots and wings, right? When you get down to it, that’s the role of parents? The job? The minimum requirements? My parents gave me that, and I like to think we are doing the same plus (and then some) for our little dude.

    Thank you for this. Your writing is lovely. Adding you to my blogroll right now. 😉

  5. Thank you so very much! I think mom-daughter relationships always have the potential to be a bit tenuous. I’ve heard rumours that boys are a bit easier during the teen years, but that may just be my daughterless friends tryingto rub it in! Thank you for adding me to your blogroll and visiting my blog! 🙂

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