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Leaving Behind Young Motherhood

 

I’m not ready. I write that out and tears flood my face. I can’t even barely see what I’m typing. Ironically, I am sitting in a nursing rocking chair right now, a crib across from me and a breastpump on the end table; none of which are mine. This room belongs to a family of mine and will be the newborn’s room, next to the older brother’s room. I’m here with them, living with them for a week, essentially being a sister, and a mom to the new mother. She is in her young motherhood and Dad in his young fatherhood.

Twenty years since all of this motherhood began for me. I’m not ready. I’m not ready to leave my young motherhood behind me. This has been percolating inside of me for the last several months and I couldn’t quite understand it. My birthday is also nearing and I’ll be forty-five. My whole life I have always loved turning older. I was a young first-time mother at 24, at least compared to many women in this generation. Getting older felt more validating as a parent in my young motherhood. I remember talking with other parents, whose children were in pre-school with mine, and they’d ask how old I was. AFter telling them, they’d say, “Oh! You’re still in your twenties!” (laughing and giggling with themselves, not with me) They were in their thirties or forties with preschool aged children.

At the time, this never felt good. But as I got older I felt more validated to be a parent of three boys. Almost like I was more deserving as I got older. At thirty I was elated to be out of my twenties. The twenties was perceived to be such a fun, silly, immature and reckless time by the older parents, and so now being 30 made me feel like I’d reached the summit. Every year after that and even my 40th were all fantastic. Then forty-one, forty-two, forty-three, forty-four…those were all great as well. I never cared about the ‘AGE’, actually more relished it.

So here I’ve been, about to turn forty-five in ONE week and I’m NOT READY. Why does this number bother me so much? Why do I feel scared, sad and unsure about what is ahead?

 

Summer_45

As the weeks have gone by, it is revealing itself to me. It has nothing to do with my number of 45, but everything to do with the ages of my sons. My three princes, I call them, are young, grown men at almost 20, 17 and 14. And my bonus son is 22. I am no longer the mother to young children. FUCK, just writing that and those tears and this pit in my stomach swells and feels so heavy. I can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. I’ve spent twenty years with an identity linked to having young children. Even my career is about mothering and young children. That may be what saves me, actually.

My memories with the boys seem like a long time ago when I am with them now. Then a picture pops up, or my telling of a story becomes like we were just there. It’s like a dream as we try to remember but remembering it only in fragments, becoming confused how the order of the dream went. We all laugh, the boys correcting parts of my story and swiftly realizing that so much time has passed.

We’ve all heard of empty nest syndrome as our youngest child matures and moves into their own home. Well, that’s not me…yet. Or is it just premature and I’m doing some of the work now?  My grieving young motherhood in pieces, doing some every year until my youngest is at that age, possibly? Of course, I want to understand ‘the why’, right?!  HA! Here I am trying to understand what is going on with me as I feel in a transition, or in the middle of a bridge, not yet quite across and far from the start. I remind my own families that we have to let go of trying to solve or figure out ‘the why’. Getting to the place of just letting things be is so relieving, as babies and young children will have things you can never figure out why. And here I am. In a different stage, but curious about the why.

I recognize I am quite lucky. My sons are remarkable young men, each having such special and unique gifts. I also look at them and see those faces of the distant past in a smirk, a laugh, a gesture and then my body is nearly catapulted back into those days. I am left in grief. I am left feeling grief that we are not in that place anymore. My mind goes here: helping them brush their teeth, bathtime splashes, stories at bedtime, goofy words they say not quite right, the lunch box notes I would sneak in there to surprise them, Santa antics I did to keep the magic alive, the tiny pillow I made with a pocket to place their tooth for the fairy, how they got sick and sweetly fevered in my arms, drove matchbox cars on my chest as they nursed, their feet when they were cute and didn’t stink…

And I’m not entering that phase ever again myself. That time is behind me as I stand in the middle of the bridge looking ahead to a place that is new to me. And I’m sad. The cerebral part of me completely gets that in ten, fifteen, twenty years time from now, I will be thinking the same thing about my sons during this current stage. But my heart is aching. I now hear myself saying the dreaded, “In my day”. Those words are actually coming out of my mouth.

I guess this is a piece of me coming into my age. I will accept that my young motherhood is behind me, I don’t believe this yet, but must tell myself. There are things ahead that will be just as sweet, as tender and make my heart leap like the times of the past. There better be! (smiling) I know there will be. But g’dmt right now, in this moment of my life, I am grieving the days of having my princes be smaller than me, with smaller feet that smelled good, and I could pick them up and they could wrap their legs and arms around me and squeeze me so hard.

When I fly home in 3 days, I am going to hug each one of them extra hard, and then hold on a little longer even once they start to let go. Then I’m sure we’ll swiftly be back into rhythm where they are hungry, want some dinner after the first and second dinner, moan about doing some chores, have plans with everyone except us and then turn around and say, “I love you mom.”

5/4/2022

-Summer