It’s been four years since I’ve written here. The children have flown, all but one, and that last one is almost underway as well.
A few years ago, I thought that when they left, I’d have to become someone else. I tried to picture that person in my mind. Career Lady. Or maybe Writer Lady. Or Volunteer Lady. They all seemed too detached, too isolated, or too busy trying to fill my time with other people’s problems.
I had no idea, from inside my white picket fence existence, that I had already learned how to live in the world beyond our family’s front gate.
After all those years of sleeplessness, worry, prayer, and patience, I didn’t realize that as my no-longer-little ones spread their wings, they’d be releasing me from our shared nest to be the very person they made of me, too. This is no new beginning.
Yesterday a shy teen or 20-something girl (I can’t tell these youngsters apart anymore) came up to me in the fast food place and asked me in a wee little voice if I could ask them for a wet wipe for hands for her. When the counter boy came back, I said, “Could we have a wet towel for hands, please?” I didn’t really think about it. It just seemed right to use the we I’d use for one of my own. I handed it to her with my mom smile. She lit up and smiled back like she’d just made a friend.
I saw so many children I’ve known and loved in her smile. My own kids. Sunday School students past. My darling little music students. Without a word, she told me something that resonates forward into the years to come: Everyone needs a mom.
And I learned something else in that moment. Contrary to many a feminist complaint, this is not who I am in relation to my children or my husband. This is who I am.
Until we surrender to what true love makes of us, we can’t possibly envision how strong it makes us, or how universal its utility in the world we move through. If there’s a culture war out there, then this is my armour and my weaponry.
I don’t need to go and invent interfering ways to nurture people, as if nurture is there to meet my emotional needs. They’ll walk up to me and just need the sort of kindness that feels like home for a second in a pressurized world.
I don’t need to meddle in my children’s lives or fuss over them. I’m free to occupy my time, and to exist. I’ll always do so as the person I became when someone else’s life sheltered within my body. A space of safety, with a heartbeat that surrounds the one who needs it.
Mom Lady, Career Lady, Writer Lady, Volunteer Lady… vocation is beside the point. My children have sent me out into the world, just as I’ve sent them. Together, we go.