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