Monday, August 17, 2009

Why Are You Crying, Mom?

(In 1999, we took our oldest daughter away to college. This was written immediately after that trip. It is reprinted here and dedicated to everyone who has their children with them at home and have yet to face this day, and to all those who have gone before me and been through this already and most of all, for Marie.....)

Why Are You Crying, Mom?

Over the past weekend, we took our oldest daughter, Marie, to a state University two-hundred and fifty miles away to begin her freshman year of college. As we made the journey, I found myself often in tears. My daughter, thrilled and excited at the prospect of this new venture in her life was confused and frustrated each time my tears would appear. Marie thought she knew the reason for my tears, but she could have never known what fears, thoughts and memories this separation was creating in my heart.

Clark Hall, home of the College of Arts and Sc...Image via Wikipedia

"Why are you crying, Mom?" Marie asked me, and with tears streaming down my face, I was unable to form thoughts into words to respond. Even if I had been able to form the thoughts, my sobs would not have allowed the words to have been uttered.

The tears actually began in the driveway as Marie said goodbye to her sixteen-year-old brother. He could not accompany us on our trip and their goodbye would be brief. They were born only twenty-two months apart and had been playmates, friends and confidants for years, or until they had to share a car in high school. To see them parted for the first time broke my heart and started the flow of tears. We were miles down the road before I stopped crying. After that, while I tried to keep from crying, it seemed as if the smallest thing would send me reaching for a tissue or sobbing into my hands. I knew my daughter didn’t understand, that she thought I was just sad, and I couldn’t explain it to her then, mostly because I did not understand it myself.
As I watched my daughter that weekend, it began to dawn on me exactly what it was that was piercing my heart and I was able to pen the words to express to her what was making me cry so often that weekend.

So, what is the answer? Why do I cry as I take this talented, gifted, bright young woman to college to continue her education? She has worked hard, won multiple scholarships, grown into an accomplished young woman with awards and medals covering the walls of her bedroom. All who know her describe her as sweet, talented and brilliant. So why do I cry taking her to college? Do I cry because I will miss her? Yes. I know I will miss her a great deal. Do I cry because I won't be there to protect her, help her? Yes, but that is only a part of it, and not what prompts the torrent of tears and the sharp pain in my heart.

I don't cry for the young woman who is now starting her own life as an adult. I don't cry for her independence and her ability to live without her mother. At eighteen, she should be independent, and I feel like I have done my job well precisely because she is independent.

I don't cry because I will go days without hearing her voice utter that single word that she loves to use, "Whatever!" and weeks without seeing her face. I expected that the time would come when she and I wouldn’t be together daily and I realized that was a normal part of life, the way it should be. I don't cry just from the anticipation of missing her so greatly, though I do anticipate missing her greatly.

I cry, and in fact, I grieve, for the little girl who is no more.

I cry for the little baby with the long black hair that everyone used to comment about. For the most beautiful baby I have ever seen, and as a Labor & Delivery nurse, I have seen thousands of babies. I cry for the little toddler playing with her new baby brother. For the ruffled pink outfits and the frilly dresses, the black patent leather shoes and the hair bows.

I cry for the eight-year-old little girl as a patient in the hospital room who was amazed that someone could watch TV, eat and even bathe in bed.

I cry for the young girl receiving an academic Presidential award from her principal. For the dedicated student who started science projects at the beginning of the summer. I cry for the young teenager facing her first band camp and for the sunburns that came with every band camp (will she EVER learn to use sunscreen?)

I cry for the first days of high school. I cry for the trials and triumphs of those four years and for learning to drive. I cry for the frenzied studying for Hi-Q Academic competition and for thousands of index cards from which she studied, scattered all over the house. For the football games and half-time shows and the parades. For the challenges over clarinet first chair and drum major. For the search for the perfect homecoming dress. For the graduation, that now seems long ago.

Yet, it is more than that.

I cry for four place settings at the table instead of five. I cry for the empty bed in a room for two girls. I cry for all the birthdays and Christmas mornings now past, days whose magic has been lost with the “growing up.” Most of all I cry for the little girl who used to run with arms wide open for her “Mommy.”

So, as I celebrate the independence of an accomplished and talented young woman who will certainly grow into a wonderful adult, I also mourn the loss of my first baby, my first toddler, my first little girl, who now lives only in the hearts and memories of her parents.

I cry because I would give anything to hold her just once more in my arms and kiss her sweet little face.

That, Marie, is why I cry.

(Today our youngest daughter begins her college career.
May she follow the path the Lord's light shines upon, all the days of her life.
She is no less bright, talented and intelligent as her sister and I wait eagerly to see what beauties will be displayed as this "rose" opens up over the years.)

(Em -- may your light always be perfect and your shutter never stick!
I love you,


Anonymous said...

I drove my son to his first dorm room 400 miles from home. My heart was in my throat, as I shook his hand good-bye and warned him to behave himself.

For the first time in many years, he embraced me and kissed me on the cheek. It was a long and thoughtful drive home.

Frances Davis said...

What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing it with me, Nickie.