My kids go to my ex-husband’s home country with him for three weeks every summer. They left this morning. I want to say I’m an old pro at saying goodbye to them. And I am. But I’m not.
I remember right after my daughter was born how empty my belly felt. I hadn’t particularly enjoyed being pregnant. Yet the lack of her wiggling around in there felt like being plunged into a loneliness I didn’t even know existed before she came along. That’s kind of what these vacations away from me feel like. Being the mom of a tween and a teen is not non-stop bliss. But they leave a vacuum once they go.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my time alone. In many ways my favorite part about being divorced is the time I get to myself. I feel bad for my married friends who don’t see the freight train of the empty nest coming: I get a dress rehearsal every other weekend. It has helped to to cultivate a social life and an identity beyond “Mommy.” I like to remember the woman I was before having kids. I love them and I’m also happy for the time apart.
Plus I know they’ll have fun on their vacation. It’s not ever New Jersey kid who gets to hang out on sparkling Mediterranean beaches for three weeks, surrounded by people who dote on them.
Still, the goodbyes are never easy. This morning, as we got ready, everything was in sharper relief, my daughter’s funny chatter, the perfection of her curls, my son’s video game music in the background, how strong his hugs feel now. Why does consciousness work that way, making us notice things more when we know they’re about to go away? I overlook so many things about them every day. But this morning, every detail was exquisite. I spontaneously burst into tears in the kitchen as I overheard them negotiating window seat access with the compromise skills I’m always harping on them about.
Before dropping them off, I gave them each a long hug. They are both taller than me now… when did that happen? In scent and spirit they are just like those little infants I just held. (Okay, maybe not in scent). But they’re so MINE, it just feels wrong to send them off into the world. And yet, isn’t that the whole point of motherhood? I try to be grateful for every practice run until that inevitable day when they go away for good. But it’s hard on goodbye day.