Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to walk away (when your heart wants to stay)

Leaving your baby at school is no joke, people.  I totally thought I'd be one of those cool moms with celebratory first day Facebook photos and a mimosa in my hand by nine.  But as I left school today sobbing like a teenager nursing her first heartbreak, I can fully, 100 percent admit I am not her.

Last night Joel and I were talking and he mentioned the phrase "separation anxiety."  It took me a few moments to realize he was not referring to Benjamin.  He was talking about me!

Yes, I suppose you could call it that.  Or you could say I'm having trouble letting go.  But I think it's also this.  I knew at some point I'd have to let go, of each of my children.  I knew I'd have to do it in increments even, a little at a time.  But I thought they would be walking away from me.  I didn't realize, with each separation, I'd be the one walking away from them.

I remember each of my pregnancies with a fondness that I know not all women can muster.  But my pregnancies were rather uneventful.  Minimal morning sickness, no complications.  Somehow pregnancy hormones made me more emotionally stable instead of less (which means Joel has had about two-and-a-half years of peace in our eleven years of marriage).  My biggest pregnancy problem was that my babies didn't want to come out.

But come out they must, and come out they did.  I very distinctly remember the first time I cried after giving birth to Aiden.  Joel and I were flipping through the channels on the small hospital television and we happened to come across a Discovery Channel program on elephants.  The mama elephant was receiving an ultrasound, to check on baby, and meanwhile, on another continent, I sat sobbing on my hospital bed.  I missed being pregnant like crazy.  Even though I was ready (I thought), I missed it.  I missed the kicks and the hiccups and, more than anything, I missed that, without hardly trying, my little baby was the safest, most protected he would ever be.

When we got home a few days later, I laid him in his bassinet, right next to our bed, and for the first time, I walked away.  The feeling that came after was extremely uncomfortable, and I kept sneaking back to check on him.  But I did it.  I took those first few steps.

I walked away later for a few minutes of alone time, while Joel cared for them.  And later still for grandparents and babysitters to step in while we found a moment for us.  I walked away to care for new babies, when those babies were starting to grow.

And finally I walked away and left my heart within the walls of a school.  A building that was not my home.  In hands that were not mine.  And no matter how beautiful those walls, no matter how loving and capable those hands, it was heart wrenching.  Every fiber of my being said, "don't go," and still I walked away.

I imagine that pull never really goes away.  Like when they start driving or go to college or get married or move to a foreign country.  It's not natural, parenthood.  It's not natural that you should pour so much time and love and energy into a small being, only to send them further and further away from you.  Or, more accurately, only to walk further and further away from them.  From the car, from their dorm room, from the church, from the airport.

It's really one of the only relationships where you love and love and give and give, and don't expect anything in return.  In fact, you spend years filling them up with love, not so they'll care for you or love you back (even though they oftentimes do), but so they can know love and take that love into the world, away from you.

Benji made a friend at school the other day, and even after a hard separation, when I saw him walk up to her, wrap his little arms around her waist and hug her tight I thought, that boy knows how to love.  And I realized, if I never left his side, he'd never have a chance to give that love away.  Or, at least, not in the same way that he's learning to love without me.

And so I'll continue to walk away, every morning.  It will get easier, I'm sure.  And then it will get harder.  And then easier again.  But I'm not in this alone.  I'm praying late into the night when I can't sleep and I'm leaning on my husband and I'm feeling the loving embrace of this community of moms, as well as the people I love back home.  I'm coming here when my feelings are too big to stay inside and I am so grateful for it all.

And very soon I'm going to start to enjoy it.  I promise.  It won't always be tears and hard good-bye's.  Soon it will be happy kids skipping off to class, and happy mom skipping off to wherever I want to go!

So give me a minute to feel all this, and then hang tight, because I think the celebration's coming!

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us..."

1 John 4:10

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