I don’t write much about my oldest daughter, Jen (not her real name), because she is pretty private when it comes to most things. That being said, when she first got married I actually chastised her for putting so much about her personal life on a blog she had started. The irony of my starting a mental health blog revealing some of our family’s deepest secrets hasn’t escaped me, but oh well, this isn’t my first lesson in the hypocrisy of parenthood.
Last year Jen told me she couldn’t read my blog because it made her sad to read about what her sister, mom, and grandmother had gone through, so I figured she wished to maintain a low profile as far as my blog is concerned.
Today I have decided to write a post about Jen. Almost ten years ago she broke my heart by getting married. I know that sounds dramatic, but I just wasn’t ready for her to grow up! It was hard enough when she moved 45 minutes away to go to college a couple years earlier. I cried for days and sat in her room at home for hours after she moved into the dorm.
After Jen’s first semester, I came home to find her sitting on my couch. “What are you doing here?” I asked, surprised to see her on a day that wasn’t her usual.
“I moved out of the dorm…I told my roommates I couldn’t stand them smoking and they kept doing it, so I left.” she said indignantly.
Did I mention that Jen is stubborn? I ended up paying for a dorm room that she didn’t even stay in her second semester.
Fast forward a couple years later and Jen tells me she is getting married. I thought she was way too young, but she was in love with her high school sweetheart so there was no stopping her. Still, I cried for days.
The wedding was glorious. It was a beautiful fall day and every detail went off perfectly, from the beautiful strumming of the harpist during the wedding procession to the joyous dancing that lasted late into the night.
When I told one of our guests that they were going to Cancun for their honeymoon I didn’t give it a second thought when the person said “isn’t there supposed to be a hurricane there this week?”
“I don’t think so.” I replied with a shrug. Hurricane Katrina had come through a month or so prior to that, and I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be another one.
Less than a week later I was sitting in my living room watching a level 4 hurricane named Wilma pound over her Mexican honeymoon.
I was so distraught, I actually left my unlocked car on the street outside my work with the keys in it, still running. Once the hurricane stopped a few days later, I heard from her briefly, only to find out there was no way for them to get home. I was seized by fear and started calling the local politicians and news stations to try to plead my case to get her home safely. I ended up giving what was supposed to be an exclusive interview to one of the local news stations, when much to my surprise, my son-in-law’s mother was doing the very same thing on another channel. She was perfectly coiffed and had pictures of the couple strategically placed so that the newscasters could see what a lovely kids they were. I, on the other hand, was at work when they showed up, with my frizzy hair, eyes swollen from crying, and piles of papers on my desk that needed tending.
A day or two later, our kids landed safely back home with smiles on their tanned faces. They had survived, without any real assistance from their parents. Rather than being traumatized, they were invigorated and excited to tell stories about how nice the local people were to them, the crowded shelter they stayed in, and the wonderful couple who gave them money when their cash ran out.
I learned a valuable lesson that week about what it really means to let go of my adult children. The hurricane was a metaphor for all of the challenges life would throw their way, and they had survived their first storm without any help from me. There would be others to follow, and I would soon find out that the worrying really doesn’t stop, it just takes on a whole new level of futility.
There will now be cats, dogs, and grandchildren to worry about too; yet somehow I will find a way to manage the swells of anxiety that arise whenever I let my imagination run wild, just for the sheer bliss of moments like this: