Wings

March 28,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

T. accomplished a huge milestone this weekend. For the first time ever she spent the night away from me. Even when she was six months old, and spent that first post-surgery night in the hospital PICU, I was right there with her. For the rest of her week-long hospital stay I asked the nurses to wheel in a hospital bed so I could sleep with her.

On Friday night, T.'s Y-Princess tribe had a backyard campout and she spent the whole night in a tent with Scott. It was COLD, too. All week we warned T. that the campout might not happen. It might rain. It might be too cold. The dads might decide that sleeping outside just wasn't wise that night. But all week long T. refused to let our boring, practical, grown-up negativity dissuade her from her excited faith in the event. She was sure it would happen, and it did.

T. and Scott packed up and drove off on Friday in the middle of a lot of chaos. L. was having a very bad afternoon, and exploding right and left. When it came time to say goodbye to T. I all but pushed her out the front door. I wanted her gone to her good time, her friends, to this adventure she had been looking forward to all week. As a result, there wasn't the long, lingering, Mama-goodbye I thought the occasion needed; there was only a quick good-bye kiss, and then T. and Scott were off. Her excited chatter and happy voice hung in the air long after I had shut the front door.

I gave myself a long, cold, time-out on the back porch and I felt sorry for myself.

Very sorry.

I felt like the kid who gets left behind while everyone else heads off to do something really fun.

Then I rallied: I mopped the kitchen floor, bleached the sink (housecleaning=therapeutic), and made myself a sandwich, which I ate in the kitchen by myself since L. wasn't ready for company yet. I made plans for the rest of the evening, and thought about how L. and I could turn things around for us, and salvage the night (we did: we popped an obscenely huge bowl of popcorn and watched Back to the Future). I thought about how, even though T.'s departure left me feeling mixed and a little lost and empty inside, it also affirmed to me how much joy I get as a mother when I see my kids spreading their wings. Kids need to succeed, to feel big and strong and brave inside. They shine almost visibly when this happens, and the shining so quickly engulfs us. 

We draw faith and courage from it., like nothing else.