From here to eternity whenever I am expressing the enormous magnitude of Love I have for someone I am not going to say, 'I love you to the moon and back' because that is just not enough. I won’t say, “I love you as big as the sky” because that, also, is not enough. I will say “I love you almost as much as your mama loves you”. Almost, because even that, is intangible and doesn’t quite cover it. I think most moms would agree with me. I can imagine if you are a mother and reading these words you are nodding your head with the utmost conviction, no question here, I know I am right.
In the nine months leading up to August 17 1999 I, as most pregnant women, was freely given a lot of friendly advice. “Get your sleep now, because once that baby comes you will never sleep again.” "Your life and your body will never be the same." Teething, "put a little bit of Brandy on their gums to help numb the pain” Crawling, “ take the dangerous items and put them above eye level so they don’t get hurt” Eating, "They will eat when they are hungry, they wont starve." Kindergarten," read to them and encourage reading so they will understand the importance of imagination." Elementary age, "let them try any and every sport and activity so they can learn what they like and where they excel to gain confidence." Jr High, "watch who they choose to spend their time with, they will be influenced by their peers." High school, “tight boarders, wide lanes.” (this happens to be great advice)
There has never been a shortage of advice. As you may have experienced yourself, it is given, both, solicited and unsolicited. You take some, you leave some. One bit of advice that has stuck with me and I never forgot throughout all of the years, came from my dear Aunt Kay the day we brought our son home from the hospital. As she patiently listened on the other end of the phone to my bliss- filled awe as I kept repeating “ I never knew love like this existed.” “ I never thought I was capable of loving anything so deeply” I talked about how precious this little baby was and that I couldn’t believe that Jordan and I created him. This little baby who was cradled in my ams and depending on me to keep him warm, fed, safe… alive. I was in a perpetual state of disbelief, wonder and awe. I explained to her that I would inherently protect this baby from the moment he took his first breath until my last.
She smiled through the phone, she understood every word I was saying. Once she was sure I was listening, she paused and then said, ”Now, you will spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to let him go.” Followed by a statement that I know to be true, “your child is not of you, they are through you.”
Flabbergasted, because we literally had just brought this baby home, he was only a day old. But, I somehow took it in. Even though I questioned whether or not she had just heard all of the things I just gushed about. I thought perhaps, an alien just had taken over her body and mind and gave me a piece of sound advice that was so far in the future I couldn’t even wrap my sleepless, blissful head around it..
Somehow all of these years those careful, ( awful ) words that she so delicately but oh so harshly seared into my heart, still haunt me today.
You see, nobody tells you about the hardest part. Nobody warns you of the trauma and pain it will cause you. Nobody tells you your baby is going to grow up and you will have to let them go and this is what it inevitably leads up to in the end. Nobody prepares you for that. I mean, even though I wanted to cold-cock whomever was advising me at the time to 'get a little more rest before the baby comes', I did take a few more naps. But no, no one ever says, when you realize that your baby is getting ready to fly the coop you have to somehow figure out how to let them go. You have to let go of all of your dreams for them, you have to let go of all the expectations, you have to let go of the narrative you have been writing all of these years about how magical and wonderful their lives will be. You have to let go of who they will choose as their life partner. You have to let go of what career path you think they would be wildly successful and fulfilled should they choose to go that way. You have to let them tread dangerous paths and get burned. You have to let them feel their own pains and make their own stupid mistakes. You have to let go of what you think, what you feel and watch them set out on their own.
I have done this once. I have flew to Ireland with our son, 14 plus hours with so much pride and fear only to walk up to his dorm room for the first time jet-lagged and emotional to be told, bye mom I am going to do all of this on my own. I don’t need you to buy my sheets, I don’t need you to fill my refrigerator, line up my toiletries and make sure I have a full tube of toothpaste, deodorant and laundry detergent. I am going to do this on my own, I got this. ( I must insert here none of these things were technically said but portrayed through actions, that’s just the way our son is) But he didn’t have to say anything the actions were clear. I have tolerated you coming this far, now you can go, so I can live my life on my own. (GUT Punch) So as I walk away from the campus dorm with my husbands loving arms holding me, I am fighting with two very different emotions, pride and fear. But one very predominate thought, wow, that was it. Just 18 very short years and now suddenly I have to just let him go? How! Oh my god, how?
You think that was hard? That was the easy part. Later that week we had one last dinner before we returned to California. He ate like a King. True to his standards, he ordered appetizers, a hardy meal and of course, dessert. As always, the most expensive thing on the menu. It didn't matter. I sat holding back tears across from him, as I looked into those beautiful big, blue eyes and memorizing the place of every little mole on his face. Remembering those sweet little red lips that so proudly could identify every single species of dinosaur and whether they were a herbivore or a carnivore. Moments later I was to give him one last hug, while fighting my achey broken heart before he missed his bus back to campus. I fought to not show how much I was trembling inside. I hid my shortness of breath as I gasped for air and my eyes filled with tears. I must say, although my descriptive replay of those last days in Ireland in this writing doesn’t solidly display so, I held it together pretty darn well all things considered…I did. I held it in so he would only see my encouragement, my pride, my strength in believing that he could single handedly move mountains.
I did, I held it together with my lip quivering. Until, we boarded our flight back to California. As the plane door slammed shut and the plane backed out of the jetway. That is when I lost it. It was in that moment where I had snot flying from my face and tears so fast and furious, that even I couldn’t cover it up. I did about 10 good solid minutes of the hyperventilating so uncontrollably that I couldn’t even catch my breath, that kind of cry. I cried myself to sleep on that plane only to wake up to the screen of the passenger in front of us displaying the plane flying across the United States racking up the miles from our starting point to our landing point. I wanted to sock that man in the back of the head. I didn't, but I wanted to. (It was exactly 5,172 miles by the way.) Fuck.
So you see, I’ve done it. I have gone though that and lived to tell about it. I can do the hard things. I am a survivor. I’ve lived through the best and all the fun which everyone just has to tell you about, but i’ve also lived through the aching pain that they just so happen to leave out. The part where you have to let your baby go, 18 short years later, with hopes that you taught them enough. You prepared them for the world. You gave them the skills to do things on their own. Also, you’ve let them go knowing you will always be a safe place to land should they need to come home. Our love never lets up it grows so big and it surrounds them but doesn't suffocate them.
So from now on, Son, “I love you like a mama.” So much I will let you go as my heart swells with so much pride. I am full of excitement to watch you move mountains. I can survive the dull ache that never really goes away as I long for the days where you were in my arms I will remember, you are not of me, you are through me.