Not that I get ahead of myself normally, but today I’m imagining the first Mother’s Day I spend alone, as an empty-nester. It’s really not too far away – after all, I have an 18 year old and a 15 year old.
On that day, my kids will be in a dorm or an apartment somewhere, finishing up or getting ready for finals, maybe preparing for the work day ahead. I’ll wake up, early as usual, and let the dogs out. I’ll breathe in the spring air and wonder at the vibrant green of the budded trees. Because I know what day it is, I’ll say a silent thank you for having had the chance to be a mom.
Later, after the paper and something to eat, I’ll pull on my shoes and take a walk through the forest. It’s quiet and dark in there – even in mid-day. And among that peace, I’ll acknowledge that I raised two pretty terrific young people.
At some point or other, my phone will ring – no, wait. At some point or other, I’ll get a text saying: “Mom thinking of u. love u. happy mothers day.” To which I will text: “Can u call me?” And then my phone will ring and I’ll hear the sweetest voices any human ever heard. I’ll hear the voices of my kids.
And I will be so grateful. And happy.
<Right after I get these tears out of my eyes.>
See, I love being a mother. And I’m good at it. In fact, being good at it was the biggest surprise of my life. That I could find so much love, and so much ability to love, just because I had these two kids in my life – amazing.
And today – right here, right now – my life and the lives of my children are congruent and yet entwined, and we see each other every day and eat meals together and laugh together and discuss weighty topics in the dark together.
Because we are a family.
And when I shoot forward to the time when my kids are launched, and on their own, I wonder how I will spend my time. What will give me meaning? Will anything replace what I’ve had with my kids?
What will it be like when I’m not Mom-On-Call?
Will we still be a family?
That moment right there is going to be “one of those moments” for me. One of those pivotal, life-defining moments.
Having an empty nest will be the time for me to celebrate the past – and my role – and open my arms wide to what’s next.
Just like I did when I graduated from high school and became a college student. Like I did when I graduated from college and became a working person. Like I did when I went from single to being married. From being 29 to being 30. From being childless to being a mom. From being 39 to being 40. From being married to being single. From being healthy to having cancer, and then to being cancer-free. From being 49 to being 50.
I’ve done this redefinition many times before, I can do it again.
But the major difference is this: One day I stopped being 29, and I never could go back. But I’ll never stop being a mother. It’s a lifetime gig.
I’ll just keep finding a new way to mother them at every stage of their lives. Just as an infant needs one thing and a teenager needs another, I’ll find a way to mother Grace, the new mother. To mother Munroe, the new father. To comfort both of them when they suffer loss, because they will. To celebrate their joys, because they’ll have them. To offer advice when they ask (now, waiting for them to ask is going to suck, but I’ll try. I swear I’ll try.)
There will be a lot to keep in mind. I’ll have to stay engaged and connected. But the most important thing for me to remember is this: if I am just myself, and do as well as I’ve done so far, I’ll be fine.
I’ll always be a mom. And, today, from where I stand, that feels pretty wonderful.