I experienced it today, what it feels like to be away from your children. I know it is the first of many such periods in my life. And now I understand when mothers tell me that you “carry your children around with you in your heart”. I always thought this was just a metaphor for “you’ll think about them a lot”. But I’ve discovered it’s more than just that.
I had held it together while getting ready this morning, my mind occupied with last minute packing and making sure I had everything I needed and wanted in my bags. Finally, it came time to go, and I crept into the bedroom to say a silent goodbye. DS was sleeping sideways, his head near the edge of the bed, his feet curled against my pillow, where usually my cheek would lie. He seems to take comfort in planting his feet against a warm body. DD had somehow managed to turn around 180 degrees in her sleep. Her head was pointing towards the foot of her bed, pressed up against the rails of her bunk, with a few wide strands of hair draping down over the edge. DH was soundly asleep, dutifully remaining in his allotted tiny corner of our king-sized bed. I gently nudged him, and reminded him to make sure that, in his nightly wanderings, our little boy’s search for a warm body did not lead him over the edge of the bed.
I ached to kiss the kids goodbye, but chose not to for fear of waking them and turning my departure into a messy situation. So instead I just stared at them, and it was then that the tears welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t worried, but I already missed them terribly. I felt guilty for DS, who will not understand why I haven’t come home by this evening, and who will not understand that I will be back. I’m sure that most of his time he’ll be occupied with playing and with friends and relatives stopping by to visit. But I can’t help but think that, every now and then, in a quiet moment, he will want me and not understand why I’m not there. I can only hope that, if he hears my voice over the phone, he’ll understand that I have not forgotten nor abandoned him. I’ve already decided that after I get back, it will be some time before I leave him again – even for a few minutes. I anticipate some sort of separation anxiety and frankly, will welcome the excuse to stay close for a while.
My mother picked me up and saw my tears. She responded as usual, telling me I was silly to feel that way, that I have to do this eventually, etc. She means well: she doesn’t like to see her chidren (or grandchildren) unhappy. But she does as she was likely taught, unknowingly invalidating, making me feel not better, but unheard, misunderstood, unsympathized with. No wonder validation is so important to me as a parent. It was one of the first precepts of Gentle Discipline that spoke to me so deeply. Before I left this morning, I reminded DH that it’s okay to talk about me, to show DS pictures of me, and to let him cry if and when he misses me that much. It’s okay to be sad.
I sat on the plane not long after takeoff and, feeling the effects of an early morning, I closed my eyes and sought to clear my mind. That’s when I felt it. Yes, I had been actively thinking about the kids on the way to the airport, and then had to suppress those thoughts a bit to prevent me from crying again. Yet as I lay there with my eyes closed I saw them in my mind’s eye. And I felt them. This is hard to describe, and will probably sound really corny, but I felt them as if there were inside my chest. Usually, when one holds an image in one’s mind, one senses it as being close to one’s head and eye. As being “in your head”. But this image was centred right in my chest. Side by side their images sat, my heart between them. I wasn’t conciously thinking of them, yet there they were. And as my thoughts wandered later to my hotel and the upcoming “evening all to myself”, they were still there. It was as if someone had painted translucent images of them on each lens of my glasses, so that whatever I saw was accompanied by their faces.
This, I thought, is what mothers mean when they say “you carry your children around in your heart, always”. When one of them moves halfway across the continent, or when one of them takes a summer job overseas, when they go off to summer camp…I now know that they will still be with me, holding that special place in my heart, always in my view. It is yet another wondrous, almost spiritual, aspect of Motherhood that has moved me in ways I never knew of before. And just one more reason why I have found that being a Mother is truly the most precious gift in Life.