Just another empty nest story….

My heart goes out to Mamas this time of year. It’s that notorious time of letting go… For some, it is an exciting time of new beginnings. For others, it is a time of dread. I know both too well. The one place I feel like a true expert. Once upon a time, I left both my babies their first day of school. My son was a little different because I worked when he was a baby so the sting of leaving him on his first day of school was a bit muted after leaving him with sitters and at Day Care but I do have a few stories that were memory makers.

Though I loved him dearly, my first husband was a little selfish and careless when it came to parenting. Funny, because when I first met him, I watched him with his little niece and he obviously loved her very much. As I watched him color with her and listened to their  conversation and the sweet exchange,  I KNEW that I wanted him to be the father of our future children. Don’t get me wrong, he ended up being a good dad in many other ways but in his youth, and theirs, at a pretty crucial time, when I needed him to be seriously responsible, he just wasn’t. One shining example is when my son was about two, I woke up the next morning to a big mess. I had waitressed the night before while my husband babysat and I guess he had a small party with some of his regular friends over or so I thought. Obviously some other friends of his I did not know came over that night as well.

As I was cleaning the mess up from the night before, I frowned when I noticed a treasured mirror my very best friend had given me was laying on the coffee table. Puzzled,  I thought that was odd and wondered why it was there until I saw my son pick up a straw and stick it in his nose. Horrified, I realized exactly why he did that and what his innocent eyes had witnessed the previous night and my nightmare began.

I realized that my son’s own father was not going to be the one watching him ever again or at least for a very long time. I promptly went back to school to get a job so that I could work  in the day, put him in Day Care where I knew he would be well watched without coke heads partying in front of him. And even though that may have been a one time incident and little did my husband know that his own barely two year old baby  unknowingly toldl on him, I freaked out enough to realize that it was up to me to take care of my baby. So between my mom and a neighbor, I found safe child care. Sometimes a mama has to do what a mama has to do. And it is ALWAYS about putting the safety of your kids first. Period. I don’t think I even made a big deal about it. I just adjusted things and filed the information away realizing what I was dealing with.

Fast forward, a few months, I finished school, was working and had my son in what I thought was a good school when we ran into the Director of that school. I loved her. She was amazing, or so I thought until my son totally freaked out when she came up to him at a local Fair. I had no idea why, and it didn’t matter. I promptly removed him from that school and put him in a Christian School until we finally moved and I was able to stay home. By then I was pregnant with his sister and had enrolled him in the public school around the corner. He was in second grade and I walked him to school the first day.

He was already showing signs of not needing his mom by then. Though I could tell that he was a little happy that I was there. I had packed his lunch trying to imagine him eating it and thinking of me, lovingly putting in all his favorites, how funny. Now I know he wasn’t thinking of me at school while he was eating his lunch!!! As a young mom, it helped to imagine that anyway~

He had a new backpack and new clothes he could care less about but it made me feel better  knowing  his shoes were new. I prayed all the way to school that he would find a new friend and like his teacher. As soon as he saw the first glimpse of the school, he dropped my hand. Ouch. He puffed up and marched into the line of his new second grade class. Leaving me totally in the dust. Double Ouch. I smile as I think back at how I felt back then. I decided to not make it worse by trying to kiss him but I did remind him what gate to meet me at when school was out. “I KNOW mommm!” He stated as he followed his new class to their classroom.

When school got out that day, I was excited to hear about his day. I watched for him. I watched for his class. I thought I saw his teacher. But I never saw my kid. I panicked. I went to his class. It was empty. I went to the other gate. Everyone was since long gone. I finally went to the office. I was barely four months pregnant but I felt as if I was going to go into labor right there when they told me to call the police! I ran home crying, hysterical. My neighbors had their screendoor opened and I didn’t know what to do or who to call so I told my friend across the street the whole sorry story. She immediately got on the phone and cussed out the office saying “WHO tells a pregnant mother to call the police?” Then we hopped into my other neighbors car promptly drove back to the school.

So let me clarify, I had come from the arms of a private school where anyone picking up my child practically had to give their blood type before they would release him from their care, to a school that loses your children and then takes no responisbility after they have done it! I laugh now but you have no idea the feeling I had back then. I can still feel it even though it was almost 25 years ago. Well, obviously we found him. My friends and I split up and one of them came back with him in tow…. He had gone to the wrong gate! Oh my gosh. Really?!

I guess my point of sharing this story is: we all have those memory making moments… The first days of school, the first time you let go of the back of their bike without training wheels, the first time you watch them drive off with their fresh new license in hand. And then off to school or to whatever life they are heading to. The thing we have to adjust to is that no matter what the age, 7 or 17 or 32…. when they take that metaphoric hand out of ours it hurts a little. We let go in different ways throughout the years. And then we finally adjust to that empty nest. Or do we? Yes, we do. We start writing our own second chapter. We realize that we made all our dreams come true in our first chapter and become inspired to write the next and then the next, only imagining what we can do!

Like I always say, I will always see the little feathers stuck at the bottom of my nest and remember that my own little birds once filled that nest giving me a lot of joy. And know that even now, they sometimes will end up at the wrong gate. But my prayer is that there will be a lot more right gates than wrong… and that sometimes they will come home to let me hold their hand from time to time and I will understand when they need space, and pray that they will always know  that I will be okay when they let go but will always be here  with an outreached hand and a soft place to fall as needed. Because…. I’ll love you forever and forever your mommy I will always be.

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9 thoughts on “The Wrong Gate!

  1. Something really struck me here that was really a nice bit of writing. You mention packing a lunch with all his favorite snacks being sure that he would think of you and then realizing that he really was not going to think of you at all while eating those things. That simple turn of loving kindness and a pretty dream of him thinking of you. If only after realizing he was not going to think of you you then decide to put in a couple extra of his favorite carrots anyway. That would have felt all the more wonderful.

    At the beginning the thing with the mirror and straw was powerful. I so wanted you to have taken a quick picture with your phone and then confront hubby with the picture of his little boy with the straw up his nose. For the kid to have watched enough to know where that straw goes is horrific. Hubby doing — probably — coke is strike one. That he did it while babysitting is strike two. That the kid was there watching would have completely set me off. You have 30 seconds to explain to me why I’m not going to child protective services, Jack. Talk! 20 seconds left.

    You got me riled up. First you mention the mirror and finding it out of place on the coffee table and then sharing further the realization even as the kid was sticking the straw up his nose. SUPER EFFECTIVE.

    I don’t know if I want to face your pen with my sword. Wow.

    So in both cases I mention you share a dawning realization as you experience it. That so works. Own it.

    1. I guess I could have written it differently because I can tell you when I was packing my son’s lunch I was not packing for his attention, I lovingly packed each thing for him to feel me with him…. maybe i felt lonely at school, I wanted him to not feel that. I remember, my dad got transferred a lot in his job as he was rising up in his company. Once when I was being dragged around from school to school and I was always the new kid. My mom made me this cut up hotdog sandwich from leftovers the night before. I remember feeling horrified, trying to hide my sandwich. Now, I realize that she probably went to a lot of trouble and lovingly made that sandwich. Once when my son was in preschool, I put a jar of babyfood applesauce in his lunch! He was only 3… I thought it was the easiest way to pack his favorite applesauce. WHAT a horrible mistake I made! Much more than a cut up hotdog sandwich. So you better bet that after my son came home all indignant because his little toddler buddies had laughed at his “baby food” in his lunch box… I always took packing extra everything an art! 😉 To the point of my kids later telling me that their lunches were the envy of their friends. 😀
      As for the mirror and the straw story…
      Well, if in the 80s we had cell phones I may have thought of that one! But don’t judge me too harshly. I was terribly naive, about 25, and I had gone through hell before I got married in an emotionally damaging relatioship. I didn’t want to fight anymore. I just took care of business and even though I loved my ex husband to the point of adoration… I divorced him because of my love for my children. He died 5 years ago because of his lifestyle. I still miss him.

      1. I was suspecting this was before the time of ever-ready cameras. Please don’t take any of my comments as criticism ever. I was merely reacting as I hope I might today. In reality I never know how I’ll react to a given situation until I’m faced with it.

  2. This is enlightening. My little niece just started a dew days ago and her mom, my sister, was so anxious. She had mixed feelings about it: sad, scared, excited. Being a bachelorette, I could not understand her anxiety; I was excited for my niece who would meet new friends and enjoy playing and learning. Now I realize that for my sister, seeing her child off to school meant the start of many and long goodbyes and journeys.

    1. Aya, someday you will remember your thoughts here and you will be having your own first day of school experiences soon enough! Just enjoy the journey getting there! Your life is an empty book and you are filling the pages with new chapters daily. Your chapters may be different than some right now but we all have a connection somehow. I remember my time of life where you are now. I wish I had appreciated them more. I wonder why I was in such a hurry to have it all happen so fast! I goes by fast enough! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Hope to keep in touch!

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