I spent most of my first Mother’s Day in tears. Even for a crier like me, it wasn’t how I had planned to spend the day. But I had the triple header of saying goodbye to family that had been in town for the week, saying goodbye to a house we had planned to buy, and preparing to put my son in a new daycare. (For those keeping track, this is childcare plan #4. Hubby astutely pointed out that we have had almost every form of childcare possible at this point: nanny, in home daycare, live-in care with my mom, and now a daycare center.)
Of these major life events, the daycare was causing me the most tears last Sunday. The idea of getting used to another stranger looking out for my son seemed almost more than I could handle. (Though the excuse to spend $150 at Target for “school supplies” for my son’s first day in daycare was some excellent retail therapy.)
SPOILER ALERT: I LOVE the daycare. The detailed daily report of what and how much he has eaten, the times and lengths of his nap, and the diaper changes and numbers of BMs calms my inner helicopter mama. Just kidding, nothing calms my inner helicopter mama. But it is an appreciated OCD step in the right direction.
No, my crying about the daycare has nothing to do with the quality or satisfaction with the daycare. Instead, it has everything to do with watching my beautiful baby boy go on his next big adventure. It is about seeing him grow up and go places and have adventures without me there.
I kept asking my husband, in the midst of my tears, “What if they don’t love him as much as I do?”
Because when it comes down to it, that’s what I want. A world that despite all evidence to the contrary will hold my son in kindness and compassion. A world that will accept him for the perfect person he is. A world that will nurture and adore him.
I look in his innocent face and think that there is absolutely nothing that has happened in his world yet that would make him believe that the world is anything other than those things I just listed. And I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the reality to settle in, for prick of the spinning wheel, his birthright in this broken world.
I’ll be honest, there’s another side to this coin. It isn’t just the avoidance of pain. The other question that I ask over and over again is… (I’m ashamed to admit this.)
“What if he loves someone else more than he loves me?”
I am the center of his universe. I am the most beautiful and hilarious and exciting thing in his world. And I just love that. I love all of it. I love the attention and the adoration and the acceptance. And if I’m being completely honest (and usually I am) I don’t want to give that up. And letting him go means giving him the opportunity to realize that I’m not the only amazing person in this world.
My husband and I were talking about our son last week and I said something like, “That’s my boy.”
And he replied, “He isn’t yours.”
I obviously responded charitably. Something along the lines of, “SHUT.UP.YES.HE.IS!” But I instantly knew it was true.
I get it. I know that my job as a mom is ultimately to let him go. To let him explore the broken and ugly world, teaching him to see the beautiful in it and to cherish the good. To trust that he will love and be loved by more people than just me; and that this is healthy and right. To put into practice my husband’s words: my son does not belong to me.
But that often seems impossible. Or leaves me in tears on Mother’s Day.
The week after our son was born we asked our pastor to come and pray for him. She came and gave the most beautiful benediction and blessing over his life. And she left me with the best piece of parenting advice. We had been told a lot of “get as much sleep as you can” (useless, useless advice) and “enjoy this time because just you wait, when he’s a teenager you will be miserable.”
In contrast, she said, “It seems like just yesterday that my kids were little, and now [my youngest daughter] is in college. And it was all good. From the time they were babies to now. All of it is good.”
Today is my son’s nine month birthday. We went to the park and he sat in the bucket-seat swing and he laughed and laughed as I made silly faces and kissed the top of his head when he swerved my direction. It is hard to believe that nine months ago I could only image his face, the dimple in his check, the blue of his eyes. And it’s even harder to believe that nine months from now he will be walking around our living room and climbing our bookshelves. In nine years he will be in school, and nine years after that he will be graduating from High School.
Each step of the way, I will be learning how to let go, over and over again. And maybe there will be some miserable teenage years. There will almost certainly be those who do not show my son the kind of love I believe he deserves. And I suppose it is possible that one day he may love someone more than he loves me. (Ugg, again.)
But I am holding onto my pastor’s words. Having faith that I, too, will look back and be thankful. This is good. This is a gift. The loving and the letting go.
All of it.