As we drive off to your junior year at college…..
As I sat down to write this post, I thought I would be writing about how dropping your daughter off at college, even for the third year in a row, is just as gut-wrenching as the first day of pre-school drop off. And it most certainly is. I’m feeling as broken hearted now as I did that first day I dropped you off at pre-school – and then also kindergarten and high school.
Then I started thinking… I’m a very sensitive woman, as you are. I feel things, good and bad, very deeply. Other people like us do exist. So I’m probably not totally off my rocker for feeling this way. I know you know I’m proud of you, and not just of your noteworthy accomplishments (of which there are many). I’m proud of the woman that you have become. You are intelligent, caring, nurturing, considerate, empathetic, giving, courageous, humorous, kind, affectionate, forgiving, and brave. You are an inspiration to me in so many ways. The way you handle yourself, how humble you are, how you always hold your head high. You are the bravest woman I have ever known, without a doubt. You proved this to me, and the world, when you were only six years old.
When Daddy died, I thought it would kill me. I worried that it would destroy me, and by default, you and your sister. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was look you and your sister in the eyes, then ages six and three, and tell you that your father had died. It was worse than hearing the news myself. It was worse than having to tell Uncle Russell and Grandma in the middle of Newark Airport. I don’t know where the strength to persevere came from. I used to say Daddy sent it to me, that Daddy helped me because of you and Sammie, when he knew I would need it the most. But then it came to me. As Oprah would say, I had an “ah ha moment.” The strength came from YOU. At six years old, you worried about Sammie and me before yourself. I know you knew I was starting to fall apart. Instead of you falling apart, too, which no one would have blamed you for, you stepped in and helped keep your terrified little sister grounded. Sammie didn’t understand fully what was happening. She took her cues from you. If you were okay, she was okay. So you made sure you were okay. You tried to do the same with me. You tried to be strong and present a brave front for me. You had a breakdown one day, a screaming fit. You yelled at God, out loud, for taking away your father. You articulated how angry you were about it, how much you loved Daddy, and how sad you were that he was taken from you. I called Uncle Russell to tell him. “Thank God!” he said. “I was worried that she was handling it too well.” He was right. Ever since then, you have tried to protect me, to not burden me with your problems and issues. You were always concerned about how upset it would make me to know that you were feeling weak and overwhelmed.
All I’ve ever wanted in this life was to be a mother. I wanted a dog, a white picket fence, the works. I wanted it all. I didn’t get my Norman Rockwell painting. I got love and happiness, heavily peppered with heartache and disappointment in various forms. But I did get my children. As Martina McBride sings in the beautiful song, “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” my daughters were sent to rescue me. And you did. You saved me. You have rescued me from the depths of despair, from darkness. You have caused me to look at life in a completely different way, to consider alternatives that I never thought possible. You have taught me to not be afraid to be ME, to embrace who I am and what I want, and to not let anything stand in the way of my getting it. I am forever grateful to you – and your sisters – for this. And while my gratitude will never change, I am officially relieving you of this duty.
Just as I told Aunt Christine to feel pride when dropping Emma off for her first day of school, I am full of pride right now, too. Twice this past week alone, I was complimented on the job I’ve done with you and your sisters. I was told what an amazing role model I am. My knee jerk response to that was to say that I didn’t have much to do with it. But I was wrong. I had a great deal to do with it. We are strong women. We come from a long line of strong women. It does not skip a generation. We will always persevere. We will always survive. Nothing will break us because we will never allow it to. We will never give away our power. That said, I am your mother. I will always worry about you, until I take my last breath. It’s part of the job. Someday, you will be a mother and you will fully understand this. In times of happiness and in times of sorrow, I will worry. I will always look to ease your burden, to take away your pain. I would willingly give my life to save yours.
So I appreciate very much that you are still looking to protect me. But, as Sam would say, “I got this.” I will still cry, as I am right now typing this. I will cry as I drive away from your dorm. I will cry at your graduation. I will cry the day you are married. I will cry when you get your own apartment. I will cry when you can pay for car insurance yourself. I will cry when I hold my grandchildren. I will cry. It’s what I do. I’m proud to be a mother – to be YOUR mother. There is no protection from that. I’m also pretty tough. I can hold my own. I can take care of myself. The day may come when I do need your help, when I will need your love and protection, and that of your sisters. Save your energy for then. Protect me and care for me when I really need it. Until then, live your life. Do your thing. Set the world on fire. Share your triumphs and failures with me. Allow me the pleasure of being your mother to the fullest extent. It’s what I signed up for.
I love you to the moon and back. Forever and always.