Last weekend, I dropped my youngest at the mall to meet friends for a movie. In the rearview mirror, I noticed she had taken special care with her voluminous, wayward mane. Her long, transparent lashes were tipped with mascara. This is my second, and final, round as the mother of a teen girl.
I’ve been told I’m good at endings, but life keeps handing me open books I can’t close, questions I am unable to answer and seal up. I didn’t want to draw the curtains on 2019, because in this new year my youngest enters high school, and my oldest begins her senior year. These enchanting, goofy, insightful girls are becoming women and could someone – anyone! – hand me a Kleenex?
I have thought of parenting as a bittersweet venture. It’s a chance to give everything you have to someone who leaves you. You hand your heart to them and say, “Break this.” If they are able to leave, then you have done good work. But…okay remind me again: why are they leaving?
I am tempted, when I see them off to school, to say, “Have a great day honey, and no one will ever love you as much as I do. Here’s your lunch.” But then, I want someone to love them as much as I do. I want them to have adoring friends and a besotted, devoted spouse who brims with kindness, sparkling humor, and (why not?) good grooming.
I’ve always told them it’s fine to choose singlehood, but (perhaps because I am conventional) in the secret heart of me where my deepest secrets are buried and never brought to light except publicly on this blog, I do want them to find partners someday. I want those partners to be so genuinely kind, so wildly giving, that I never fear for their hearts. Can you believe all the stuff I want? And that’s just the first item on my list.
I can’t run ahead of them on their path, shoveling away every obstacle. I can’t presort friends and love interests, weeding out the faithless from the true. I can only see that they know my love is durable, and that my constancy in this is the last, best thing about me.
I do not think I am necessarily a good person. Well, good sometimes, but not great. I try to keep to a sort of social Hippocratic oath and not crash my way through life leaving a trail of confused victims coughing in my kicked up dust. I could do more; I know this. But I have loved my children with my whole, flawed self. My heart is broken, but full, and entirely theirs.
Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky.
– Hafiz, circa 1330