I suppose every mother has her sweet spot.
There are those who get pregnant in an instant,
and those who feel better than ever when expecting,
and those who deliver with ease.
There are those for whom wearing a baby night and day is just right,
and those who delight in the ever-shifting expressions of a toddler,
and those who are made whole by the emerging consciousness of the preschooler.
There are those who can manage the ins and outs of homework and lessons and birthday parties and playdates,
and those who know whether to lean in or pull back as hormones shift and stakes heighten,
and those who can pivot from manager to consultant providing just enough space and just enough support for young adults to emerge.
There are even those who go on to develop healthy, reciprocal friendships with grown offspring.
From Thanksgiving to the New Year, this Empty Nest of mine has been awakened in new and mysterious ways leaving me unable to place my own sweet spot (though I was once particularly fond of the preschool mind.)
And then they all departed, again–my oldest and his partner (until the next holiday perhaps), and my youngest on the 1:00 train for a few days in the city ahead of returning to school full time.
I wandered the empty house, and then lay down on the couch, absorbing the silence, until I found myself, like a teething baby, drooling.
I often wonder if I made the “right” choice. Perhaps if I had remained in a demanding career or at least made more money (both of these fit together nicely), I would be riddled with less self-doubt or at least less space to consider it.
While they were home, I left them all, in an ice storm no less, to meet up with a young friend who since we last met became a mother, and I found her in a kitchen soothing an 8-month-old baby girl who was cutting her first teeth.
“Teething,” I said, “That was my hardest time.”
I watched as my friend juggled cooking and setting the table and conversation while tending to her child—diapers, feeding, play, comfort—revealing a depth of connection between these two beings, as if it was always so.
It’s the absence of control, matched with the emotional impact, coupled with the unpredictability and absurd variability, that slays me, particularly now, when I have such little reference for my role and so little clarity of how to do and not overdo.
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
As the sun sets on another day, on another month-long school vacation, and on the first half of my 50’s, I have forgotten who I am.
Sunrise, sunset, Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.
One night, after everyone went up to bed, I took to the stairs, tucking my head under the railing while playing the soundtrack from Fiddler on the Roof to an empty room.
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
I looked out across the kitchen table to the French doors and recognized that new paths were emerging while the sweetness and burden of the path once shared necessarily fades…
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day.