We moved Butterfly back to college and into her first apartment recently. It was an exciting time for her and one she’d been looking forward to for months.
I, on the other hand, had different feelings about it.
I’ll admit that I also was a little excited. I couldn’t help remembering how excited I was to be moving out of a college dormitory and into my own first apartment. I felt like I’d finally arrived on the doorstep of adulthood. The feeling was exhilarating as I contemplated the future before me. Everything seemed new and the world was full of opportunity.
But that was then.
All these years later, the unbridled optimism of youth has been beaten out of me by the hard realities of life. Time, experience, and hardship has a way of just smacking you between the ears and extinguishing that enthusiasm you felt when the world was new and just waiting for you to conquer it.
But no mother wants to rain on their child’s parade.
So we picked out dishes, pots and pans, a shower curtain and bath accessories and other goodies. We ordered a sleek new computer desk and day bed in chic black to coordinate with her new roommate. And it was exciting.
But it was also scary as hell – for me.
The first day of moving was exhausting. We were ready to drop and more than ready to check into our hotel, but when it came time to actually leave her there at the apartment – without us – my heart lodged in my throat.
I gave the usual warnings to keep the door locked, use the peephole, be aware of strangers – all the mom stuff that she’s come to expect – but it didn’t make me feel one bit better as we turned and walked away.
Would my baby be safe here? Would she get along well with the new roommates? Would she be as cautious as I wanted her to be when she was alone or when out after dark? What if something happened to her? I found myself overcome with fear and worry.
She assured me that she knew what to do and would take all the precautions I’d been teaching all these years.
Somehow it didn’t make me feel one bit better.
But we left. And it felt strangely like I was abandoning my child. While I realize that sounds melodramatic, the feelings that washed over me left me feeling surprised and stunned.
I had no idea it was going to be this hard.
When we got to the hotel I have to admit that I had a crying spell. I can chalk some of it up to pure exhaustion but that wouldn’t be the entire reason I was emotional. The realization that my baby has taken yet one more step away from me, and into a world where I cannot protect her, was more powerful than I had ever imagined it would be.
You see, I’ve never been the mom who was clingy. I was proud of having raised my kids to be independent. I wanted them to be able to stand on their own two feet and able to take care of themselves. I considered it the mark of a good mother that her kids didn’t need her anymore. None of us live forever and our kids must be able to survive without us. That’s the motherhood goal…right?
And I’d told others that I was looking forward to this. I’d even told myself that I was looking forward to it. After all, I’ve got my own interests and things I want to do. My identity has never been solely based on motherhood. While motherhood was was important and I love my kids, I didn’t consider it the only measure of my success in life.
But I cried like a baby anyway. I don’t guess it matters how old our babies are – they’re still our babies and we’ll always have this urge to protect and take care of them.
The world is a big scary place. I didn’t know that when I moved into my first apartment, but I’m much too aware of that fact now that it’s my daughter’s turn to move into her first place.
I’d like to say that a little piece of your heart stays behind any time you turn around and leave your child in a new place. But it would be a lie.
Wherever your child is – your whole heart is left there with them.