She waited for me every single morning to start her day. First while standing up in her crib with a big smile. Then even when she was a toddler and transitioned to her “big girl bed” (a twin bed), she wouldn’t get out of her bed until I came in to greet her. Each morning for the first years of her life I would wrap her in my arms, feel her breath on my neck, and we would start our day… together.
At seven, when her dad and I divorced, I let go of half her mornings. I also let go of half her bedtimes, half her holidays, and half her memories. I spilt many tears in our post-divorce years over the parenting losses I choked down while looking at the long view and knowing a divorce was better for our entire family.
Now I find myself here. Here being mere days before her graduation from high school. She already has 2 overnight trips planned this summer with girlfriends miles away from Omaha. She has announced she will be getting a nose piercing because she doesn’t need my permission. She also made me promise on twin tattoos before she moves one thousand six hundred seventy-six miles away to the University of Oregon.
For eighteen years I have presumably been preparing for this moment. I arrogantly thought after practicing letting her go for the last 11 years as a divorced mom that this impact would not be as great. I thought I had developed enough muscle memory in my heart that I would be near expertly equipped to steel up against this sadness. I was woefully wrong.
This ache of letting her go is eclipsed only by my pride in who she has grown to be. If my younger divorcing mom self could see her now, I wouldn’t be nearly as worried and devastated that I was a “bad mom” for putting my daughters through divorce. I would see that I was right in instinctively knowing that she needed happier parents more than she needed together parents. I would have held peace in acknowledging that the hardship of a divorce in her youth would prepare her for the unfair adult world directly ahead of her.
But I couldn’t see that then, just like my brain is not now convincing my heart that all is well and that I have nothing to grieve. I can’t yet see that in some ways she will need me more than she ever has and in other ways our relationship will deepen as adults. I just know now I am letting her go and with her goes so much of who I am. So I will wrap her in my arms, feel her breath on my neck and we will start this next chapter… apart.