Letting Go, Part 2

//Letting Go, Part 2

I walk into my daughter’s room, the day after she leaves for her senior trip to Europe, and my eyes fill with tears. Clothes are strewn everywhere, tags have been cut off last-minute sock purchases, and empty boxes of toothpaste and sunscreen litter the floor. These are the physical remains of my 18 year-old daughter’s all-night packing frenzy. Normally I would be angry and leave it for her to clean up (even if it takes weeks). Instead, I fold every piece of clothing with care and gently return her makeup, hair accessories, and shoes to their place. I feel a deep ache and longing for the girl-turned-young woman who embodied this room. At the end of the summer, she will be starting her next adventure in college in New York. I will have to let go again, as I did with my son. I thought it would be easier the second time around. But it’s not.

Claire Easton graduation photoIt was simple to ignore the impending loss while being immersed in the flurry of end-of-year activities at school. I cheered from the sidelines as my daughter rushed to baccalaureate, grad parties, graduation, and now I’m left with this — silence. I know it all too well. It’s the sound of things to come. I’ve written blog posts about letting go the first time around, and the mistakes I’ve made parenting young adults. I don’t plan to repeat my errors, so I am more cautious. I try to look at things more from my children’s point of view. As one of my readers, Bonnie, reminded me:  “Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.” Although it’s cliche, this saying on an embroidery piece from a Maine gift shop is undeniably true. (Ironically, I am in Maine right now as I write this.)

Claire and friends in ParisThis is the trial period of letting go while my daughter is traveling in Europe. She is having the time of her life, and I am so very happy for her. In the void, I hold onto everything that reminds me of her — nectarines from the fridge, the smell of her perfume lingering in her room, the extra epipen we have in the house to protect her from peanut allergies. I know I’m feeling sorry for myself. I cried about 10 times for no reason. First world problems. But this is big for me. This is the end of motherhood as I know it.

The launching phase means I will have to look at myself in the mirror for real:  what are you going to do with yourself now? You’ve devoted almost half of your life to motherhood so you’re not used to being anything else. My identity is tied up in my role as a mother. This is all I’ve known for a long time and frankly I don’t remember my other self anymore. Over time, I suspect it will come back to me. I will continue to write. I’ve been in a slump lately, but I hope I can get back to editing the latest draft of my family’s story. I want to get back to being a lawyer again, at least part-time. I’ve reactivated my law license and I’m looking into doing public interest work. I’m desperate to do something about babies being separated from their mothers at the border. I am especially drawn to that issue right now, for obvious reasons.

I want to take up new hobbies too. I would love to garden, paint, and meditate. I want to appreciate the moment. Through the practice of mindfulness, I would like to tune into my feelings and make sense of them. It helps to write them down and struggle with them on paper. I will learn to handle the familial burdens that still await, like being a good daughter to my aging parents. For the moment, I give myself permission to feel Fun without Dick and Janesorry for the loss of childhood, this period of motherhood, and this season of my life. I’ve been told you can do different things at different points in your life, not all at once. I hope it’s not too late.

The same day my daughter left for Europe, I read the book she had given us this past Christmas called Fun Without Dick and Jane:  A Guide to Your Delightfully Empty Nest. She knew we were going to have a hard time dealing with her leaving, so she wanted to offer us some help. It’s a hilarious book about empty-nesting and how to live a good life after the last child flies the coop. I laughed out loud as I imagined myself wearing red lipstick everyday, just because. I visualized getting out of my yoga pants and wearing nice slacks to go to the grocery store or wherever. My husband and I have talked about taking spontaneous vacations up the California coast. I beamed thinking about driving with the windows rolled down and my hair blowing in the wind, but then my smile turned into a frown and I started to cry. I will miss her.

2018-10-09T07:52:59+00:00By |Family|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Grace S July 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Love this, Rosa. Thank you for putting into words so clearly what the heart of a mother goes through!

    • Rosa July 3, 2018 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      Thank you Grace! I will be here if you need me when it’s your turn. Enjoy every moment!

  2. Marlene Wagner July 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Rosa, Thank you for sharing this life event with your readers and me. It resonates with honest self reflection and deep insight.

    We are many “selves,” as you acknowledge. Mother, daughter, wife, attorney, volunteer. And sometimes “letting go” is involuntary, and sometimes it is voluntary: we choose to let go–of friendships, of marriage, of beliefs.
    Relationships change, and morph into new ways of sharing and caring. Your “motherhood” years are not over: they will continue for your lifetime, and one day you will know the joys of grandparenthood, and perhaps great grandparenthood.

    We regret not what we have done, but what we have not accomplished. You have much left to do, so reach for the stars!

    • Rosa July 3, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Marlene, thank you for your insight and advice. I do have much left to do and I don’t want to regret what I have not yet accomplished. I know motherhood is not over either. It will take on new dimensions, as I see with my own mother. So good to hear from you and thank you for following my journey. I miss you!

  3. Suzy July 3, 2018 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you Rosa. I’m feeling exactly the same way! If you think about it, we only have them for a very short time in our lives. I’m glad we were on this journey together for a while.

    • Rosa July 5, 2018 at 2:10 am - Reply

      Suzy, thank you for reading and for sharing this journey with us from the very beginning! We might not see each other much but I think of you often. So glad our girls reunited.

  4. Simran Kathuria July 3, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

    The emotions, feelings and the process is of letting go! Our mom’s had to go
    through it and now it’s our time. It is one of the hardest things to do for sure. They were
    our babies just yesterday or that’s how it seems.
    Letting go of my first born left a void and brings sadness but joy at the same time to see her grow up.
    Let’s catch up soon!

    • Rosa July 5, 2018 at 2:16 am - Reply

      Thanks for reflecting with me. It is definitely a see-saw in terms of emotions – both exhilarating and sad at the same time. I’m sure my mother felt the same way and I feel closer to her as a result.

  5. Maureen July 4, 2018 at 5:35 am - Reply

    Oh Rosa! I know. I know. Such a well written mother’s lament on letting go. I guess all I can say is you are in good company AND I am happy to report that at least this mother found that the empty nest is actually not all that bad … in fact, rather good in terms of: getting to rediscover yourself and old lost hobbies; have tons of fun with your husband, and do WAY less housework! It’s a new chapter for sure but I tell you, it’s a good one. And all the while those kiddos call and still need you – just in different ways. It’s a special club we all gain entry to, like or not. I think you’ll like it.

    • Rosa July 5, 2018 at 3:02 am - Reply

      I think you may be right! You have the right attitude and I’m going to try to follow in your footsteps. It’s my new chapter too so I am going to jump in and see what this new club is all about :)! Thank you!!

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