When my children were little, I imagined that one day they would fall in love and get married and would live happily ever after. I pictured them walking a straight path from childhood to adulthood with no detours. They would, I was sure, finish high school, go to college, get good jobs, get married and have lovely babies for me to spoil.
This seemed like a perfectly reasonable plan to me.
Life, however, had different plans for us, and I am learning that the straight path is an optical illusion. I am learning, now that my babies are twenty-five, twenty-one, and nineteen years old that the path to happiness will be filled with detours, puddles, fallen trees, and gnarly roots for tripping over.
One of the greatest challenges to me as a momma is how to embrace the significant others who come into the lives of my children. My oldest child fell in love in her sophomore year of high school. I thought that it was sweet and temporary, until it lasted past their high school graduation and into two years of college. I thought that he was for keeps, and I had my grandchildren all pictured in my idyllic daydreams. The end of that relationship was painful, anguished, and caught me completely by surprise. I mourned its death long after I should have moved on, even after I learned that it was far from the loving and supportive relationship that I want for my girl. She fell in love again, as an adult, and I once again opened my heart and my home to a young man who seemed like a match for my daughter. Two years later, he abruptly ended things, leaving her brokenhearted and without a place to call her own. She came home to us, fragile, shaken, and vulnerable. I mourned his loss, even as I plotted ways to cut out his heart and feed it to him piece by piece. I wanted to kill him for hurting her, but I was incredibly sad to lose the dream of him as a son-in-law.
My boys are younger, but they, too, have been in love. My husband warns me, time and again, to hold back my heart as they bring home lovely young ladies with whom they are in love. I try, but I don’t have the “withholding love” gene and I tumble headlong into dreams of the future. Dreams in which the lovely young ladies marry my boys while I stand by looking beautiful and shedding tears of joy. Dreams in which they give birth to babies who look like their fathers and who come to my house on holidays for cookies and pasta and warm bubble baths. So far, each of these dreams has exploded in smoke and flames, and has left me sadder.
My children are more resilient than I am, as each has simply shrugged and said that life goes on. I am having a harder time.
To be clear, there haven’t really been that many relationships. Two for my daughter; two each for the boys. Please don’t think of my kids as “players”.
It’s just that I keep falling in love and Idon’t know how to stop myself.
And so my advice for mothers of older children: Just because your children bring home a special someone for Christmas dinner, don’t think that it is permanent. Just because that someone helps you unload the dishwasher, shovels the walk, and asks you how to make meatball soup, don’t think that you will get to keep him or her.
When that special someone gives you a thoughtful gift for your birthday, and sends you a text to say that he or she loves you, don’t get too comfortable.
Remember: life always has other plans. Maybe the trick is to learn how to adjust and accept and go with the flow. Maybe the trick is to learn how to let go of that wonderful girl from high school; the one who made such delicious cookies and joined you in a performance of the Messiah.
The trick is to realize that your children are following a path that you have never even seen.