There is no how-to guide for when your child moves out.
Wasn’t it just yesterday?
We brought you home from the hospital in the car seat, wearing a blue and white winter baby jacket. We put you on the kitchen table, looked at you, looked at one another and said, “Ok, now what?” We had no idea what to do with a baby. Do we let you sleep, wait for you to cry, change a diaper or just sit and stare at you? We had more questions than answers. Even the simple questions like, Is it ok to leave you unsupervised to go take a shower or unpack my hospital bag?” became complicated. We seriously did not know. I read all the baby books, took the prenatal classes and thought I was prepared. But no one and nothing was able to prepare me for that moment. That moment, which was a snapshot in time, but a snapshot that is etched forever in my mind. There were other moments that happened in our lives that I will never forget, but none quite as powerful, until today.
Today you grew up. Today you are truly adulting. Today you moved out. Packed up your bedroom of all of your childhood, teenage and young adult memories and began your life. As you backed out of the driveway, with your car packed full, we were crying. This is how it is supposed to be, right?
As a mom, I know this, and also as a mom I am left under prepared. I thought I would be ready. I thought I would feel differently than I do. I thought I would feel similarly to how I felt when you left for college, it was hard but I was also ok. I thought that I would just have to adjust to your room being empty and you not being home everyday. However, this is different. It is a new life milestone for you, for me and our entire family.
I am back looking around at the space you left behind and once again, I am faced with the questions:
“Ok, now what?”
“What do I do first?”
“What feeling do I feel first?”
How do I begin to process the fact that we did our job and in doing our job it means we have to let you go. It also means you did your job. You grew up. You were responsible. You finished the job of childhood and have been promoted into adulthood. You are stepping through the threshold boldly, bravely, nervously, excitedly and ready.
What is my job now? Who is a mother when the one you were called upon to mother does not require your mothering in quite the same way.
I am beginning to understand that I am being called to do a new job now and I am not entirely sure about the job description.
It is not spelled out in black and white. No one has ever written it down for me. I am called upon to look back on my life and draw reference from the other women in my life who have already gone through this stage. Women like my mother, mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmothers. I find myself wondering, how did they feel, how did they do it? How did they make the transition from hands on, being in the day to day life of your child to being a mother at a distance? They survived it. I moved out, my sisters moved out, my niece and nephew moved out, all of my in-laws moved out, my grandmother left Germany. She got on a boat to the United States right before the Nazi’s took over Germany. I cannot even imagine what my great-grandmother experienced as she watched her daughter, my grandma Alice, board a ship, knowing what was happening in Germany at the time. So I know it can be and must be done. Because this is a pattern worth repeating.
It is a learning curve. Once again, I am called forward into unknown territory. The thing is, I do know what to do when I am called forward into a new stage of my life. I have to draw upon all the healing work I have already done. It is up to me to employ the tools I have learned. The very same tools I teach my clients to get to know and use. Here are some of those tools.
1. Look inside and feel your feelings.
2. What are the patterns that need to be recognized and uncovered?
3. Feel your emotional pain.
4. Allow the pain to pass through you.
5. Have conscious awareness, be present.
6. Do not get attached to a story or an outcome.
When we are aware of the fact that we are in a place of transition in our lives, as I am now, we are called forward to be. To be in the experience of this moment. The truth is, moments like this are hard and, right now, this moment hurts. I am not going to lie. This moment is present, it is here, it is now. There is no way to avoid feeling it. I know I must feel it until I am ready to move onto the next experience of the next feeling. I also know the feelings will come in waves. I am ready and I am not ready. But, ready or not, I have no choice. When you allow yourself to ride those waves you can move through, not fall down, not get stuck and come out standing on the other side knowing you have all the tools inside of you to cope and survive. No matter what life throws your way, you can move through it successfully.
My daughter and I will move forward together. I will be there. I will be watching from just a few steps behind, just in case she wants to turn around, she will easily find me.
I will not intrude.
I will wait until I am asked.
What I do know is that I trust her.
What I do know is that I taught her as much as I could.
What I do know is that it is her turn to learn the rest on her own.
No one was able to teach me how to be her mother. I am so glad I was given the gift to learn, as she is my teacher.
How is it that twenty-two years have passed? I find myself asking once again, this time as I look at an empty bedroom, “Ok, now what?”