There have been moments in my life when I have missed the joy.
Raising three children can be a blur of responsibility, expectation, and endless compromise. While there are lazy Sunday moments, so much of it is confusing, terrifying, and exhausting. It would be foolish to say that I packed every lunch with care and a note. That I was joyful when picking up my precious miracles every single day after school or paying for their speeding tickets.
I could lie and say that I look at every stretch mark on my body as a badge of honor, but I don’t. Stretch marks suck. I was not a happy pregnant woman, and my kids’ lunches were often made in that five-minute grab-n-go to the car.
Raising people is hard work. There are days it can feel like being pecked to death while the tequila is just out of reach. We parents give almost everything we have to mold and shape what we hope will become confident, personable, employed human beings. It is a struggle to find the joy in the middle of it all.
I dropped my youngest off at college this past week. Everything says this should be sad. Empty nest. No more babies. Everyone goes mushy expression and asks, “How are you doing?”
I have spent the last few months, maybe the last year, wondering how I am doing and the truth is— I’m great.
When Maggie was eleven, she was admitted to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. After three weeks, she left with what they called a “headband” scar and a sense, as much as an eleven-year-old can have, that she’d dodged something very adult.
If you ask Michael, she was always going to pull through and be fine, but there were nights in that hospital room that I watched her sleep and let the fear of losing a child wash over me.
As often happens, Michael was right. Our youngest healed. She grew to be defiant and opinionated. She wears the strangest outfits that somehow work on her. Her hair is wild, she bites her nails to the nub, and never wears makeup. She is a light, a warm and beautiful light.
If I miss her, I will Facetime or text her. How brilliant that we live in a world where that is possible. She will be my daughter for the rest of my life and beyond. I will still laugh with her, share meals and stories with her, and most likely be her shoulder from time to time.
Am I sad that she has gone to college, moved out and on to the makings of her own life?
I mean, I cry like a baby at the emotion of it all, but I cry at everything, so that’s not a real indicator.
More than anything, I am grateful. So incredibly thankful that my child is healthy, unbelievably annoying at times, and that we walked through those hospital doors together.
I am proud that Michael and I made it this far. That from the clueless age of twenty-one we have managed to fix ourselves, pay the bills, listen, make all of our kids laugh, teach them right and wrong, feed and clothe them.
And, I am joyful.
It is special to share life with someone. It is a gift to grow that someone up. To know that you shaped her childhood and then gave her space to make her way.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Make Your Bed.