Last weekend, we made a trip to see my older daughter who lives a couple hours away. We made the trip to her apartment to hang out, go eat lunch, help her with her taxes and just visit and spend time hugging her. It was a safe drive there, a good visit, a fruitful tax return and we had a yummy lunch. But when it came time to leave, I had a moment in the car of feeling just as choked up and emotional as the very first day when we drove away and left her there to live on her own in the fall of 2016. I stopped myself from crying and thought it through, wondering why I felt so overwhelmed with emotion since I know I will see her again pretty soon. After all, she’s lived there for the greater part of two years now. This is our ‘normal’ now. So why would it make me feel sad and emotional to leave this time? While I did not come up with any clear answer for myself I came up with a few possibilities.
First of all, as parents, from the moment our kids are born, we make it our goal and primary focus to protect our babies. We spend the first few years of their lives baby-proofing and teaching them not to touch hot things and to stay away from dangerous things. We spend their elementary years helping them to learn about strangers and bad guys and good touch/bad touch. We spend their adolescent years trying to protect them from themselves.
Second, as parents we are typically nurturers. That means caring for and encouraging the growth and development of our children. And usually, to care for an encourage someone you have to be physically present with them. While you can cheer someone on over the phone or through texts and emails, but there’s just nothing quite like being physically there for high fives, hugs and shared smiles or tears.
Third, and this one is probably one of the hardest parts for me and my crew, we are touchy-feely folks. We like hugs, back rubs, holding hands, lying on the couch or in bed together to talk and snuggle. We are that family who hugs every time we see each other. We consistently fist bump and high five and wrap our arms around each other. It’s just who we are. So being two-plus hours away makes that difficult.
As I drove away from Savannah’s apartment, I felt like all the things that seem vital to me as a parent were taking a gut punch by being so far away. It feels so counter-everything I know as a mom to drive off and leave my kid alone. While I know that logically, our job as parents is ultimately to lead our children to adulthood where they can survive (and thrive!) on their own. I know that intelligently we’ve done a great job and our daughter is living well, doing great, taking care of business and is handling adulthood like a pro. But it’s still so bittersweet to know we’ve reached that time of our lives when she doesn’t need us twenty-four seven. I am as proud as can be of her, but gosh I miss her.
Don’t ever assume that the hard stage of parenting you’re in now is the ‘worst’. It’s not. It’s all hard. From pregnancy to birth to losing sleep to potty training, from elementary to middle school to high school to college to adulthood. It’s all hard. But it’s the best job ever and I would’ve give it up for all the treasure in the world.