The other thing I point to, when I worry that I have not been a good mother, is that I have my own life. In all honesty, I have not sacrificed much for my children...except my freedom. Frankly, there wasn't much to sacrifice, since I started life so far behind your average person educationally, financially, emotionally and spiritually, that any more sacrifice would have required nails. Hell, I had a child at 18 as a high school dropout and a single parent when I was still a kid myself, putting me even further behind the proverbial eight-ball. Some days it feels like I've clawed my way here to Lexington, to my almost MPA...and some days I still feel like I don't have much to show for all the clawing, all the striving. Some days I want to say, hey wait, where's my Victorian? Where's my Jaguar? Where's my trip to Morocco?
So yeah, when they are all moved out, I will still have a full life, because I have my own life. Quieter, cleaner, and less boisterous and smelly, but it will still be a full life. And although I admire this having-a-full-life thing in other women, women who are sad but not devastated when their kids are gone, women who are not left wandering around stark-eyed like refugees trying to find their center when their kids move out, it feels like a flaw in me. But I have chosen to ignore that internal voice, the one that whispers, “you should have sacrificed so much more,” and just live my life anyway...because the only thing I had to sacrifice was my freedom, and I think that counts. I think that counts a lot.
I am always shocked by and slightly envious of women who are deeply, blindly in love with their children. They brag as if their children's successes were there own, as if their failures were theirs. They are not, I want to tell them. They are theirs, your children’s. Let them have them! Oh, I have my blind spots about each of my children, whole swathes of their characters or personality flaws I have made excuses for or simply chosen to ignore, expecting God to some day duke it out with them. I believe their ultimate soul development is between them and their God. Do I have a hand in that? Absolutely. Every day I have a hand in that. But I am not the only influence in their lives, and I refuse to pretend I am. I don't have that kind of energy to devote to being omnipotent. I trust that they are each on their own journey, messy, beautiful, flawed and powerful, ultimately landing in the arms of God. I see glimpses of their destinies every day, even as I see their messiness. I have learned not to fear the mess so much anymore, because who isn't messy? Who isn't destined?
I have certain favorite photos of each of my sons, which capture them at a moment in time. There is the one of David, my almost 20 year old, at about four or five running toward the ocean (and away from me) in his blue bathing suit, his arms flung wide in a gesture of welcome. There is the one of Matthew at a year and a half, the boy who is now (gasp) almost 18, leaning over the kitchen table from his high chair seat, with his 'Heat Miser' hair and red shirt, sticking his tongue out as he looks directly into the camera with a sense of playfulness. And there is the one of Christopher, now 28 and then also about four years old, upside down on my mother’s couch in Florida, happy, blue-eyed and blonde, his upside down self a precursor of his skydiving future. Those boys still live in my sons’ grown-men bodies, and they live forever in my heart, the heart of a mother whose job it is to let go and let go and let go…and hold on.