This Mother’s Day, I’m looking at a wrinkled black polyester graduation gown on my daughter’s bed.
The mortarboard is lying beneath a snoring cat on the bedroom floor.
I tiptoe into the room — the Princess is still sleeping — and I retrieve the gown, tried on the night before, gently place it on a padded hanger and consider steaming it in the shower to get those wrinkles out. Does that even work with polyester? I can Google that. I remember that in my guest room chest of drawers I have one of those jumbo lint remover rolls that will do a great job of removing tabby fur from the mortarboard later.
This is busy work, the constant thrum that goes through the mind of the Parent. It never stops from the moment they hand us our babies in the delivery room. We are always thinking, preparing, solving, loving, tending to, yelling, feeding, planning, pouting and loving some more.
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For the past 18 years, I have had one main job, and now, too abruptly, I’m facing unemployment. Sophie, the Princess, is an only child. When she leaves for college in three months, we will feel a little like a three-legged stool that has lost a leg, wobbly and useless.
Of course, this will pass, but there’s no denying that it will take some time to adjust. How do I feel? Hopeful. Because I’ve spent all this time growing a baby/toddler/child/young woman into someone who appears to be plenty capable and independent. She is ready to leave; our job is to support her flight.
But, on Mother’s Day especially, it is so damn hard. Because we feel incredibly sad to see her go.
I even feel sad to see her friends go. No longer a flurry of Forever 21 dresses on the floor as everyone gets ready for a party in Sophie’s room. No longer will I tiptoe through a minefield of curling irons and flat irons and ballet shoes and hair clips late at night just to blow her a kiss while she sleeps. Just checking. It’s what we all do.
Missing Sophie’s friends is unexpected collateral damage. No longer will there be a blur at the breakfast table of familiar faces we have grown to love as our own. I got very good at making waffles with lots of sliced bananas, whipped cream, butter and syrup, and then tip-toeing out while they discussed all the teenage intrigue from the night before.
Sometimes, I listened with my coffee cup in hand around the corner. It’s a Mom thing.
This is the order of things, the circle of life as Simba & Company told us all the 50 hundred times we watched “The Lion King” together. Our nest will be empty but not our hearts. It’s Mother’s Day, but I don’t want to think about ham buffets or Pandora bracelets. I just want to think about how unspeakably grateful I am to have had this time together.
It has been the best job in the world.
CELIA RIVENBARK is a humor columnist and author. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.