The Agony of Motherhood

On my wedding day my father came into the "holding room" after I had finished getting ready and offered his advice.

Don't be nervous. 

Don't cry or you'll make me cry.

I'll help you down the aisle so you don't trip.

Are you ready? This is it! Last chance to run!

Earlier, my mother had come into the room to help me get my dress on.  She offered no advice, I could see she was fighting back tears. Not because she was sad, she later told me, but because she wasn't ready for me to be grown up, even though I was twenty-two years old and had been living on my own for 3 1/2 years.

Three years later I gave birth to my first child and I still remember how elated I was to finally meet the little person that lived inside my body for 38 weeks.  When the nurse placed him in my arms I started sobbing.  I was terrified.  What the hell did I know about raising children? I suddenly wanted my mother.  I wanted her to tell me what to do.  I wanted to tell her that I couldn't do this.  I couldn't be responsible for raising a child.  This was it...there was nowhere to run! Where are the real adults?  They'd know what to do! 

My mom came to visit us in the hospital very soon after my baby was born.  She held him in her arms and asked me how I was doing.  I sobbed and told her I was scared. She offered reassurance and told me I'd figure it out just like every mother before me.  She told me these were going to be the best moments of my life.  She said motherhood was the best job in the world...and the worst.  And then she dropped another truth bomb: I was going to experience the pain of watching my children grow up.

It didn't take long for me to realize she was right.  Every time my baby met a developmental milestone I begged for time to slow down. When I enrolled him in preschool at age 3, he was so excited to go to school and make friends and learn new things.  Dropping him off that first day was bittersweet.  I fought back tears as we walked into the classroom and he quickly let go of my hand to go play.

Dont get me started on kindergarten. I couldn't even choke back the tears when I left after dropping him off. I sat in the car and cried for ten whole minutes before I could compose myself enough to drive to work.

My oldest is now thirteen and attends junior high school.  Last year at 6th grade graduation they played a video montage of the students with pictures of them as babies and their class picture. I couldn't stop crying.  My husband nudged me at least five times to tell me to pull it together.  I looked around the room. I wasn't the only mom sobbing.  Some of the dads were wiping tears away, too.

Watching my son grow up is amazingly beautiful and agonizing.  There is emotional torment in knowing my kids can't stay little forever.  It's not that I don't want them to grow up and experience all that life has to offer, I do.  Maybe it's that the older they get the more I realize my own mortality and that time will never stand still.  I won't be on this Earth forever.

It doesn't get any easier with my younger children. I cried when my Middle went to school.  I know I'll be a wreck when Little One does, too.  Sometimes I get emotional when we're holding hands to cross a street.  Feeling that little hand in mine and knowing I can't freeze that moment in time...so sweet and yet so depressing!

When they graduate high school and go off to college I'm certain I'll want to move into their dorms with them.  I don't even want to entertain the idea of them getting married one day. How will I survive that emotional land mine?

My mother was right (was there any doubt?). I'll never be ready for the day my kids are grown up and it's happening right before my eyes. I'm going to hold on as tight as I can for as long as they'll let me. I hope that's forever.

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