Maybe it's because I'm tired. I've been involved in a project at work that has been, to say the least, consuming. We are undergoing a major systems upgrade and I'm one of the team leads. The conversion starts tonight, and I think as the upgrade part of the project wraps up and the actual launch of the new system has become imminent, I find myself feeling a lot of big emotions. Pride in my work and in the team I've been honored to work with; concern for the people I manage whose workdays will be tough for a while because such a big change makes accomplishing your daily workload pretty tough; anticipation of the period of time beyond those post-launch difficulties, when I'll have less on my plate and more time to be there for my team, more time to listen, more time to engage in my usual activities.
Considering all of this, it shouldn't be a surprise to find myself overwhelmed by tears this morning as I was driving to work. I'd been idly thinking about the kids' upcoming fall birthdays. My daughter will turn sweet sixteen. My son will become a teenager. They are far past the halfway point in their evolution towards being independent young adults. Sooner than I am ready for, my daughter will learn to drive. The leap of growth that will naturally follow this new independence is going to be the start of her transition into being not my child, but my adult daughter. She will learn what it means to make big decisions, she will learn what it means to have more responsibility, what it means to take care of herself not as a child in her parents' households, but eventually as a young adult in her own living space. All of this big change, it occurred to me, is just a few short years away, far closer on the timeline of being her mother than the years where she still needed help tying her shoes. My thoughts went into overdrive, and I imagined her going off to college somewhere, or moving into her own apartment someday not very far off, and I burst into tears.
I know my job is to turn her into an independent adult. I have always known that someday she would leave my care and go out into the world. I understand that's the deal we make when we bring them into this world. It's just that there was never any point, until now, that I realized just how little time I have left with her. How could anyone ever be ready to see their baby take those first steps out into the world? Even so, I couldn't be prouder of who she is and who she is becoming. I just have to figure out how to navigate that change without being overprotective while at the same time being just protective enough. You can't let go and cling at the same time; you have to let them know that you're OK with them growing up and that their job was never to take care of you. You have to trust them, trust yourself to let them enter a world that is going to be hard and beautiful and terrifying and exciting. You have to let them experience failure, and make sure they hear you cheering when they have success. I want, more than anything, adult children who need only a minimal amount of therapy to tell their friends, "I have a really good relationship with my mom."
I know all of this, and still, I get to feel my feelings and be sad that my babies are growing up. That's how it works.