The downhill side.

Dear Friends,

A million years ago (actually 6,902 days, but who’s counting?) I birthed my first child. In the seconds after my Sweet Baby Kate first emerged into this world and I glimpsed her already-familiar beauty, I felt as if the whole world stretched before me like some endless yellow-brick road to a promised land called motherhood. When my child was born flawless and healthy, I was so euphoric I imagined, for one sublimely-cocooned moment, that this promised land was eternal and free of heartache, or fear, or worry. I felt like Mother Earth, solid and ageless and in perfect orbit in our universe.

And that lasted about a minute, until somebody prodded or poked my perfect baby sufficient to elicit a wail and my bubble was burst by a tsunami of abject fear. It’s pretty much been downhill from there, because every mother I know thinks she simply cannot bear another fever; another trip to the urgent care; another sleepless night worrying over The Teacher Who Doesn’t Understand; another snub from the snotty Girl Who Makes Her Friend-Candidates Try Out and, sorry, Kate, you didn’t make it; another lost tennis tournament; another boyfriend; another broken heart; another anything, because for Pete’s Sake, Can’t I Be Done Mothering Now?

And then one day recently I woke up and realized — all this daily bucking up I’ve been doing — holy crap, it’s almost over! I am being relieved of my duty because this fair-haired baby of mine with the delicate skin and chubby cheeks and sweet disposition has grown up. And, though I have pretended for months it can’t possibly be true, just last week two college acceptance letters came in the mail, pretty much proving she’s moving out soon.

And what will I be if I am not the Woman Who Mothers This Child? Don’t tell me I’ll be mothering her all the same (because those college kids need lots of loving support and encouragement, you know). Tell me how mothers survive children who move away because in all these years of bucking up, in all the books I’ve read about mothering, nobody told me how to endure The Day When She No Longer Resides With Me.

I’ve got less than 200 days to figure out how to be a Mother Who Lives Apart from Her Child. I welcome your advice. Well, let me be more direct: I desperately need your advice and encouragement and Mr. Mom has flat run out of words to offer the Woman Who Is Wholly Unprepared to be the Mother of a Grown Child.

With gratitude {for 7,000 days of cohabitation with my Sweet Baby Kate, even though it clearly wasn’t enough training for the likes of me},

Joan, who in those 7,000 days took hundreds of snapshots like this one, because the imperfect moments are the ones you really savor


  1. Doug Fishback says:

    Life is roller derby. We’re the blockers, and our kids are the jammers. The jammers score the points. Our job is to whip them forward. This requires them to break away from the pack, at which point our main job is to be happy, pump our fists in the air and maybe gratuitously hip check somebody. Also: After the match, everyone gets beer, so it’s all good in the end.

  2. Most of my years in this little town of Mayberry I have been “Mark’s mom, Tony’s mom, Steve’s mom or Samantha’s mom.” When they were all married and moved away, it took awhile for me to determine my identity without the “mom” added. Although I’ve aways heard we shouldn’t be defined by our children I couldn’t help wondering…… who am I now and what am I going to do with the rest of my life.

    Sometimes I still flounder, but every stage of of my children’s lives have been an adventure, albeit, not without hours of worry and second guessing their decisions. Graduation from college, weddings, birthings and attending little league sports games all over again, every stage and every event (well, not every event, but most events) have been an adventure. Some sad things, but mostly wonderful things. I know how you are feeling, but it’s never really over, the house just gets a little quieter.

  3. I remember days and days of crying once my oldest had left for college. I thought it was the saddest day I would ever have. So many great moments came along for her once she ‘was on her own’. I can not tell you the joy I felt when she would call and be so happy at the leaps and bounds she was making all on her own. I was so happy for her when she sent me a copy of the O’Colly with her name in print or again, a few years later, when she sent me a copy showing her name following O’Colly Editor – . The happiness a year later when she brought home “the one” and again on their wedding day. Now she even has her own thriving business that keeps her on her toes.
    I am amazed at her. The young girl that walked out the door that day turned into a spectacular young woman. The joys far outweigh the tears and you are going to have such fun just watching her as she takes her “first steps”.

  4. The biggest shift for me as my children have each reached chronology appropriate to be designated as “adult” is realizing – consistently – when my kids now come to me with a problem it is not because they want (or need, *sigh) my help solving it. They really “only” want my support and/or to act as a sounding board as they problem solve on their own.

    When they do come to me voicing concerns over a problem? I try very (VERY) hard to remember to ask them – first thing – “what is your thinking on this?”. Then I try just as hard to refrain from offering advice until and unless they ask me specifically for that kind of help. Otherwise I try (I TRY!) to cheerlead, empathize, agree their opponent/obstacle will surely get its ass kicked, and leave it at that.

    PS – do remember to stretch before you gratuitously hip check anybody – you won’t want to pull anything that might interfere with enjoying your well earned beers after the game!

  5. I’m reading the comments right along with you. I’m one year behind, but I know it will go by in a blur. Damn these kids, growing up and all. It’s just like them to not take our feelings into account.

  6. It was hard for us to see them go but one of the biggest surprises was how hard it is on the younger siblings to watch them go!

    • Tamara Maddux says:

      This was one of my biggest surprises and the cause of many a tear. I knew my boys were close, but I really didn’t begin to understand how very close they were.

  7. That photo says so much.

    I have yet to embark on the motherhood path but this post makes me appreciate my own mom and want to give her a call to say thanks for always being there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: