People generally acknowledge that in becoming a parent, you experience a new and different kind of love. A love that is both qualitatively and substantively than any version you have felt before. That certainly has been the case for me, and I expected that. But what I did not expect is that when your heart opens up in this new and beautiful way, it also opens up to a new kind of heartbreak. A heartbreak so deep that it can steal your breath, so complete that it leaves you changed. Motherhood is a series of tiny, divine heartbreaks.
To be a mother is to live a paradox. Everything inside me wants to hold him close, to keep him safe, and to never let go. But of course, that isn’t the purpose of a mother, is it? From the time that he was born, we began preparing him to leave us, preparing him not to need us. And with each gradual step away, I sacrifice pieces of my heart for the greater good—raising a self-sufficient and successful human. People told me that the days would speed by, and they do. But it isn’t the racing clock that makes this difficult. I try not to dwell on thoughts of how he grows further from me, little by little. Of how one day, he will no longer hold my hand, or snuggle on my lap.
But just as I mourn the loss of yesterday’s version of him, I celebrate the person that he is becoming. I think about who he is right now. I think of his kindness, of how he understands emotions intuitively and beyond what his age should allow. I think of his humor, and the joy he finds in making others laugh. I think of his caution, of the calculation you see in his face as he negotiates the risk of getting into a swimming pool. I think of his constant drive to understand, of how his mind soaks up new information like a thirsty sponge.
I relish the fact that today he walked confidently into his kindergarten classroom, gave his teacher a hearty high-five, and didn’t look back. Not even once. His pure excitement and enthusiasm for starting school dulled the ache in my chest. It may be my job to prepare him for independence, but it seems that today, he was helping to prepare me for it, too.