They are our children. Our sons, our daughters. They are our family, and we are their parent. For a long time, we were more than their main caretaker. We loved them, adored them, obsessed and fussed over them--so star struck in love with them that every eyelash length, we knew. Every freckle and its placement on their arm, we knew.
We were the only ones they wanted when all they knew was that they wanted. "Only mommy," my children would cry when someone else stepped in to bathe them, dress them, feed them. 24 hour days, from breakfast through to dinner, from waking up through sleep in the night, our children are the undercurrent that hums in our life. They are the hub and all else radiates from that center.
But they grow up, and they start on the path that leads to life on their own. Kindergarten, middle school, camp away, travels alone, first love, college, their own families. They have to.
But somehow, if we shed a tear and say that we miss our children, we're told that we smother. That our tears are selfish and crippling and we should feel shame for how we sickly cling when they are just growing up, and it's not as if we have lost them. We're told that only parents who have children no longer living have a right to tears--as if we can only cry with tragedy. It is possible to feel love in more than just loss. My tears with their milestones are not a twisted prayer for time to hold off and keep my children from their own lives.
All I've wanted to do in my life is to be real. To leap into the love I have for the ones most important to me by being there, with open arms and an equally open heart, and have a place for them inside of me that will never grow cold.
I spent the first minute that I met my children looking down at them through a blur of tears so thick I couldn't make out their faces. As the nurses brought them to me, I took them in with trembling hesitancy for fear of crushing their small form. I've since held them in a fearless bone-breaking embrace, sobbing hard enough to soak through the shoulders of their clothes as they moved from their first home with me into their first one without me. I know what has made them laugh, cry, be happy, and scared. I know what they liked to eat, what they found funny, their favorite kind of weather and how I knew they were tired by the way their faces grew a touch paler than usual.
When I hear someone's harsh words telling me I should only have one reaction to witnessing my children as they find their own footing, and it should be without tears, I can't understand. Yes, my tears have been part of each step they've taken into their own existence: but it is from overwhelming emotion of having a life spent with them. My goodbye holds within it the one that came before and the one to come after. Why is there no space allowed for new bearings as we see life shift?
My tears were part of the goodbye when I first dropped my children off for their first playdate without me. My tears were there again when I waved goodbye, seemingly forever, as they turned and looked, turned and looked, to see me watching them from the front of our home on their first morning walking to school alone. On the day they first sensed that someone outside of their family liked them, my heart seized goodbye then when I caught a flash of a secret smile.
I say a thousand goodbyes a thousand different times, and each one with tears, as my children practice and discover life without me. I breathe a shaky goodbye one breath of love at a time. I say goodbye for every treasured second of their days spent with me. I whisper a watery-eyed goodbye that is not visible to them with each step they take into their own, setting the words to the wind knowing they'll carry through and surround them.
And when I'm gone from here, I will have said enough goodbyes in my lifetime that I am confident will fill the silence in my children's hearts. They will hear my warbly-voiced on the edge of tears words I love you I miss you I am so glad my life was with you.
Why are we shamed for weeping as we witness our children's lives unfold? There is joy and gratitude that cannot be contained within a pat on the back and a hug of congratulations. To have had such a life, spent in such a privileged place in someone's life!
What other outlet is there that can speak in a language adequate enough to translate for a heart that bursts wide with pride, excitement, appreciation and love for them--if not one's tears?
I will not be shamed for crying tears over my children as they grow their own wings. My tears celebrate their life, because I know every memory, hope and wish that exists in each hot drop that falls for only them.