Early this month, I walked both of my children through the door of their elementary school to their 1st and 3rd grade classrooms, and for the first time since the birth of my son, I walked out of the school without a child’s hand in mine. For the first time in eight years, I had a span of six hours before me to do whatever I wanted to do.
I spent those first hours crying.
Crying because I would miss walking to the park at 11:00 on a Tuesday, picking dandelion bouquets on the way, miss hearing little voices playing imaginary games in the next room while I did dishes. Crying because all of those divine and irritating and funny and boring and blessed and wretched moments are now history. Crying because surely there was something I did wrong to make the time go so fast. Crying because Life is actually really fast and soon we’ll be old and die and I am so glad I was lucky enough to be home with my kids. Crying because of every single time I lost my patience. Crying because I finally got the hang of being a mommy, finally relaxed long enough to soak it in and savor it, and now they are in school and I’m feeling like I’m just out of college wondering what Life will now be like.
It’s funny. I remember vividly another time I cried out in such existential angst–when I found out I was pregnant.
Then I cried because I wouldn’t be able to travel all over the world with my husband, and I cried because I wouldn’t be able to sit at a coffee shop and write for hours or go out with friends whenever I wanted. I cried because Life would be different and I loved the life I already lived. I cried because I was afraid I would not be a good mother, that I wouldn’t know what to do. I cried because I thought I was losing my life.
And then I gave birth, my former self exploding into a million pieces to be reorganized to include my new role as Mother.
At first the boundaries between myself and my children were completely blurred–there were no boundaries. They depended upon me for everything, for their food, for their safety, for their growth–their lives. Then slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, they grew, needing me less and less to live, and more and more to nurture and guide.
And these lines have been changing ever since. So when I dropped them off and emerged from that school alone, I spent a lot of time writing and thinking and asking myself questions like: How do I mother children who don’t need me for everything, but need me nonetheless? How do I mother now? What is my new role?
And what I came to is this: When they are at school, I will work hard in the direction of my dreams. And when they are with me, I will be an empty bowl for them to have a place to pour out their hearts and worries and fears and dreams. In those moments, I will free myself from any ruminations and preoccupations, so they have a wide open space to land in me.
Where I was once a food source, I am now an empty bowl, evolving, loving, and ever-mothering.