She was barefoot. Taking baby steps down the sidewalk with her arms outstretched and the fingers on her tiny starfish hands splayed and waving. She wore a bright pink hat and polka dotted leggings and had the bluest eyes I’ve seen on a baby in a really long time.
Her name was Isabella.
I met this tiny dynamo four years ago as I paced up and down the sidewalk in front of the dormitory that my own not-blue-eyed girl was moving her shoes into. Actually, “meet” probably isn’t the correct term. She came running full speed down the sidewalk toward me with a very tired woman chasing behind her. So the Tired Woman and I talked, because we were part of the same conflicted tribe of moms preparing to leave their chicks in brick buildings with strangers. As we spoke, we agreed that moms deserve a free pass from heavy lifting on dorm move-in day. That not hauling futons up four flights of stairs should be our reward for having done most of the physical and emotional heavy lifting for the first eighteen years of our kids’ lives.
Moms all over the place are standing at the doors of dorm rooms this week, taking pictures and fighting back happy/sad tears. I did that, too, four years ago. They will drive off into the sunset while their kids rearrange their dorm rooms again. Moms (okay, and Dads, too) will arrive home to too-quiet houses and stand at the doors of bedrooms that look like they’ve been ransacked and tremble with fear thinking of all the free time ahead for them. And then, they’ll get to work figuring out the rest of their lives.
We work ourselves out of our jobs if we’ve done this parenting thing correctly. That’s what I told myself four years ago.
It didn’t take long to realize that my job description hadn’t been eliminated entirely, just altered. For one thing, they come home more than you think they will so don’t turn their bedrooms into anything just yet. And don’t take it personally if they don’t call for the first couple of weeks. Your phone WILL ring again. I promise. And sometimes when it does, the young adult on the other end of the line will just be calling to talk because they actually miss you. Okay, and sometimes it will be to ask for something. But, they’ll call. And you’ll be happy no matter why.
That day four years ago, my nest emptied out. The other mom’s nest still included a tiny chick in polka dots running just as fast as her pudgy legs would go. I remember watching and thinking, keep running through life, Miss Izzy. In a few years, you’ll need strong legs to go up and down all those flights of stairs, too. Just like your big brother. Just like my girl.
Sad-happy. Happy-sad. Happy. That’s how it goes.
Welcome to the tribe, Mama. Even if it doesn’t feel like it today, you’re going to be just fine.