It’s 2 a.m. and I am lying awake in bed. Every tweet, FB notification and email ding from my phone reminds me that I haven’t yet gotten a “goodnight” text from Em. She’s fine, of course, and at a work sleepover for her amazing job as a summer camp counselor. It’s a dream job for her this summer, her last summer before college, her last summer before she turns 18 and life starts taking her in different, exciting, new directions. Life is full of great things ahead for her. And although I’m thrilled about getting to go along for the ride, I can’t help but think that my life as I know it is changing in ways in which I am not yet prepared to face.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone
“Em,” Emily, “SweetPea,” is my only child. She’s my 4 lb, 15 oz. preemie who gave me the title “Mom.” She’s my dancer, my humanitarian, my animal lover, my champion of evil in the world, my best friend……my hero. And although I was an adult when I had Em, one could say we kind of “grew up” together.
Although it’ll sound cliché to say this, I found my true calling as a mom. I am a nurturer by nature, a teacher and being Emily’s mom was the most joy I had ever felt. Even when I became a single mom when Em was just 3, I took the challenge head-on, never broke stride and kept trying to raise a person who I could be proud to present to the world. Raising a child alone creates a different type of bond than sharing the responsibilities, joys, and accomplishments with a spouse or partner, I think. I have never had to share her for vacations, holidays or weekends; except for a few brief months when she was 4 years old when her father decided to have visits. Other than that time, she’s been all mine, and I have loved every minute of it. To say that I have poured everything of me into this child would be a gross understatement.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that it was all bliss and sunshine. Being a single parent is incredibly difficult, and without the support of my family and chosen family (friends who have actually become family), I wouldn’t have been quite as successful. As I mentioned, I didn’t have to share her with anyone. I also didn’t have anyone to come home to at night to help me make decisions for her or to bask in the small, everyday joys of parenting with. But, that is one of the things that has made our relationship so close. I am so thankful for every day with her.
Even though life is fantastic right now, I am beginning to get nervous. I am nervous that with Emily being gone so much that I will have nothing to do. She’s been my number one priority for so long and even though I have been a full-time teacher, and gotten my Master’s degree along the way, I have always made her number one. I decided after teaching summer school the year before Emily turned one that it would be my last time doing so until she was grown. Summers were always spent on every beach, in every pool, water park and zoo and now? I have a hard time getting out of the house and motivated to do things alone. The funny thing is that I don’t mind doing things alone. I am just struggling to find the motivation to do so. Thus, the nervousness sets in that I will become this homebody blob that watches every episode of The Real Housewives of Wherever and collects cats like some people collect mugs. Being single isn’t the issue either. I purposely stayed single for the last 15 years, and despite a little 3-year roadblock that was supposed to be my happily ever after, I have enjoyed it. In the beginning, it was difficult as most of my friends were getting married or in long-term relationships and let’s face it, the physical need, as well as the need for adult companionship, took its little toll. Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t say that I was a nun during those years, just single. Everything was kept separate from my life with Emily.
A few years ago when my “Prince Charming” came into my life I decided to go for it, especially since Emily was just as enthralled with him as I was. Long story short, instead of the frog turning into a prince with the first kiss, the prince was the toad in real life, warts and all. It was a learning experience and now I am finally at the point again where I am content to not be in a relationship. Lots of people tell me to wait and see where the future takes me, but I can honestly say that I am happier single than I ever was in a relationship. But being content is not enough right now. I feel the need to reinvent myself or as Jay Z says “allow me to reintroduce myself.” Not drastically, but the reality that I will have a LOT of time on my hands soon is not lost on me. There are many things in my life that NEED doing and there are infinite things in my life that COULD be done.
I need to get healthy. I need to lose weight, exercise and become more active. I need to clean out closets and purge. I could take some art classes, learn to knit or volunteer my time at an animal shelter or rocking babies born addicted to drugs. All of these things interest me. Yet here I sit, nervous about how I will occupy my time when Emily is at school.
Being asked to guest write this blog was actually a really great honor for me. It incorporated my love for writing with my need to get my hands involved in something new. Ironically, the topic of my blog, chosen by me, is my daughter. She is, and always will be, my main squeeze.
That sweet little preemie turns 18 in a few weeks. She is headed off to college next month to change the world and learn how to teach dance to children. Thank God she is commuting, because I don’t think my heart could handle her leaving the nest yet. But, things are changing. She is out with friends, exploring this wonderful area in which we live, being a teenager and creating memories. My little bird is spreading her wings. I am so thrilled for her. She makes good choices and is a kind and thoughtful person. I’ve done my job well. I know that my job as a mom isn’t over, nor will it ever be, but my role is changing. It’s difficult for me to accept, to get used to.
Ding! 3:56 a.m. A text from Em. Finally.
For now, I close my eyes and sleep. In a few hours my baby will be home, probably just to sleep for a couple of hours before her next adventure. Fly little bird, fly. Your biggest fan, cheerleader, and loving mama will be here waiting. Hopefully, I will be doing something that I can drop at a moment’s notice if she needs me.