"Even more than the time when she gave birth, a mother feels her greatest joy when she hears others refer to her son as a wise learned one." -- Thiruvalluvar
Motherhood has been a wild and magical journey, one of constant growth and evolution.
In the early days of motherhood, I wrote a few memories in a “Mother’s Journal.” I’d planned to keep journals filled with the minutiae of those days but found myself struggling to do so. After a while, tired of wrestling with the guilt of not doing what I’d set out to do, I basically gave up on the task of keeping a “mother’s journal” rather early in my mothering journey. As it turns out, that was okay because so many memories live in my heart, where they are alive and vivid, as though they happened just yesterday.
I remember the day of my oldest son’s birth like it was yesterday. Aidan was simply remarkable, as all babies are. He, with a head full of dark hair and dark, intense eyes that locked with mine, as soon as they handed him to me. It was as if our souls connected in that moment. His mouth formed a tiny “o,” but he didn’t cry, even though he wanted to nurse. He was ready and knew just what to do, but my body wasn’t ready and I was out of my element, and unsure of my ability to do the most crucial and basic task, feed my baby. It would take nearly a week of working with the lactation consultant at the hospital and another outside of the hospital, pumping breastmilk and trying to breastfeed him, often while in pain, before my body adapted. After that, I was able to nurse him with ease, on demand, until he self-weaned when he was ready.
This was an amazing learning experience and lesson for me -- the idea that I could control all things on my motherhood journey went out of the window on that very first day with my first son on our first shared experience - providing and receiving sustenance. And, in fact, that the entire motherhood/parenting journey is really a shared experience, a partnership between mother and child. As much as I am here to protect, nurture, and guide my sons, I’ve learned more from each of them than I’ve learned from any other human beings and any other relationships I’ve had and perhaps more than they have learned from me. Not unlike the experience with nursing Aidan the first time I experienced being a mother, when he knew what to do to begin and when he was ready to move on, such has been the case over and over again. They, Aidan and Cormac, continuously evolve as individuals and so do I.
Even though it has been tough to find the words to write during this latest transition, as Aidan starts his college journey, I was able to find the time to grapple with the idea of “letting go,” as a very challenging part of the parenting journey. As I reflected on Aidan’s move to campus, I wrote about how difficult it was to “let go” of this human being that I’d spent every waking moment for the last 18 years of his life, of our lives, pouring love into him. But then I was reminded by two good friends of mine, that I’d done this work and loved so, so deeply, so that I could do just what I am doing and he could do just what he is doing -- growing and evolving and becoming. I have thus concluded that this isn’t “letting go” because we are in no way no longer in each other’s lives, but in each other’s lives in different ways at different stages, as we grow. In this way, rather than a “letting go,” I would like to think of it as “letting grow” -- encouraging them each to grow into the human beings that they are destined to be.
Journaling about letting grow -- preparing, encouraging, inspiring, and motivating them to stretch and step outside of their comfort zones and into autonomy and independence feels so much more positive than writing about letting go. One feels uplifting, while the other feels like a loss. Like so many of life’s challenging experiences, we couch them in negative language, which doesn’t allow us to see the lessons and magic that are woven into the fabric of our daily existence and manifest even when we are struggling or shifting or evolving or growing. Journaling about letting grow allows me to see the beauty in this leg of our life travels.
When you are struggling to put pen to paper because the experiences you’re facing are difficult, take some time to think about the potential for growth and evolution that are possible. Changing your outlook and language, whichever may come first, can change your entire memory of your life journey and how you tell this story to yourself and others.