Last night, as I was getting ready to go to sleep, an overwhelming sense of dread and loss crept over me. I paused, trying to analyze what precisely was scaring me, and discovered to my surprise that I was stressing, thirty-six hours in advance, about Wednesday morning when the children go, as they always do, to spend their allocated days with their father.
Nearly eight years have passed since the divorce, but the anxiety over my time without the children returns at regular intervals, usually on Tuesday, the day before they are to leave. Wednesdays, after dropping them off at school, I walk around the house like a ghost, not quite knowing what to do with myself. There seems to be no reason to cook, which I suppose is understandable, but why do I not use this “free” time to write, paint, garden, or — the fairies save me — have fun?
Every week I ask myself the same question: why can’t I just let go? The custody arrangement is not about to change, and it is high time to accept that and move on. And yet, somehow, it is my very identity as a mother that is in a crisis. I cannot be a mother only half of the week, but how am I a mother during the days when the children are not with me?
Parenting and life itself, it seems to me, are made up of letting-go bumps. The moment of birth and the cutting of the umbilical cord. Weaning and moving to solid foods. Sleep training. A nanny. Preschool. Kindergarten. The first playdate without mommy, then the first party without mommy. Overnight field trips. Overnight camp. Puberty. And before us, always, the scariest moment, the end of high school, the beginning of college. Soon, they will be moving away, perhaps to the other side of the world, finding a partner, getting married, having their own children. And us no longer needed. And soon, gone.
I cheer myself up by saying that letting go is a life-long endeavor. I look ahead, and I can see that my road leads me straight toward these bumps. No matter how much I twist and turn, how much I struggle or try to avoid a particular bump, life relentlessly pushes me on, forcing me into greater and greater letting go’s.
This morning, before school, Eden and I listened to music together. I felt the warmth of her little body against mine, admired how big she got, how long her legs and arms, how cute her little nose is, and the sparkle in her eyes. The next moment I was walking her to school, getting a brief hug. And then I was alone. No matter how hard I try, there is no way to stop the clock. I find myself holding on to these wonderful moments of connection, forcing myself to remember to let go of all but the memory once they are gone.