I love my alone time. My knack for solitude continues to amaze me. At times it scares me, how good I am at it and how much I like to be alone. I know other mothers, whose children are in their teens now, and they have just begun to take trips away from them. I know these mothers, they are some of my best friends. These mothers nursed their babies at night in the comfort and warmth of their beds and that is exactly where those babies continued to sleep for years after the nursing had ended.
I am not one of those mothers. I was diligent, purposeful, and stubborn . I nursed my babies on the couch during the night. I would wake in the dark, leave the comfort of my warm bed, take the baby from her bed and nurse her with a light on while reading a book or watching a show. My babies did not sleep with me. I was very proud of this. When the night nursing was over I was sleeping a good eight hours while my friends slept fitfully next to twisting, sweating, kicking, and often punching toddlers for many more years to come. Not me, my alone time is sacred and I protectively guard it and take no prisoners.
I took trips away from each of my babies for a week at a time when they were less than one year old. I certainly missed them but I could also easily transition into my days without them. There was so much I wanted to do; grown up conversations over good food and wine, bicycle trips through the Rockies, hunting trips with friends. I wanted my kids to be as independent as I was and I wanted it NOW.
But…NOW…the tall kid is 13 and I am feeling the loss of something I shared so little of with her, me. I am feeling the loss of “me with her”. I wanted so much for her independence for the sake of my own independence that I often ignored her tiny outstretched arms. Now her arms aren’t tiny and she doesn’t often ask to lean on me. She can be moody and quiet. She sometimes disappears for hours into her room, only to come out for a snack. She still occasionally asks to sleep with me and I comply when the hubs is on an overnight shift but she is past the age of unabashed cuddling and wet kisses on the neck. I missed out on more of that and now I want MORE.
I cried to her the other day because I realized something she had been accusing me of was true, that I was a different mother to the short kid than I was to her. They are seven years apart. They have different fathers. I am at a different place in my life now than I was then; more settled, more mature (older…), more content. All of those things, OF COURSE, influence the kind of mother I am now vs. then. I was struck by that difference after I woke the short kid for school on that day.
I have a routine for waking the short kid. I wake her gently, with soft fingers in her hair and kisses on her cheek that transition to gentle tickles on the side and less gentle pinches on the butt. She always wakes up slowly, first smiling and then laughing out loud. The tall kid does not wake up so happy.
At six (short kid’s age now) the tall kid was waking to an alarm..BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. And if she wasn’t up and dressed at the time I thought she should be I would yell from the living room, “REALLY, LILY?”. I was rushed and frantic and frazzled many mornings. Often I had the excuse of running my own business but often I did not because I was not working that day. Really, what excuse did I have except my own need to escape to my own solitude? The quicker I could get her out the door, the quicker I could be alone.
Now, I am feeling it; the loss from rushing her independence. I told her as much that morning as I cried onto her shoulder (that is almost as tall as mine now). I told her how I wished I had let her lean on me more. I wished I had cuddled her more and not pushed so hard for her to grow up and ‘not need me’. She said to me in a matter of fact voice, almost giggling, “It’s okay, Mom, I turned out all right.” She’s right. She’s a straight A student and a pretty great kid. I am just banking on the chance that it is not too late to let her lean on me. She is growing up so fast but she is still such a girl; insecure, biting nails, pulling hair, and looking around desperately for me in certain situations. Certainly she still needs to lean on me.
I still love my alone time. I still give a little sigh after the short kid and then the tall kid head out the door for the bus. I sit in my chair by the window and write my morning pages. I pray (this is so new to me and so good!). I plan my day and get stuff done like a champ. The time flies and I am always amazed at how quickly they are returning home to me again. The short kid loves to knock on the door and then hide next to it out of sight of the window. I love to pretend I didn’t see her and look around for who was knocking. She always laughs so hard and I force those little arms to reach for me even though she is independent all on her own, without me even nudging her that way. We have some time alone together before the tall kid gets home with little to say and an air of coolness about her (13 going on 30, right?). I realize I have to wait until she wants to talk to me because if I push too hard she doesn’t share, but if I am patient….often the floodgates open and she tells me so much.
I still feel the loss of not having given more of myself to a 3, 4, 5, 6 year old Lily. There is a hole there. But, hopefully with time and lots of prayer I can fill that hole with a whole lot of NOW.