How could I have known? The first time I dropped my kids off at summer camp was the beginning of a long goodbye.
I was thankful then for the break—thankful because it was temporary. But when my kids came home, something had changed. They had changed. They were more self-assured and had started talking about independent life goals.
I was proud of them. After all, I’d always wanted them to grow up to live joyful, capable lives without me.
But not yet.
I only recognized in retrospect when “someday” actually came. First, my two older daughters went off to college and found boyfriends and started talking about getting married and having kids of their own. Then my son landed a summer camp job, leaving only my youngest daughter at home. She quickly began clamoring to join him. She’s a natural organizer and loves to work almost more than she loves to play. No doubt the camp will soon recognize her talents and snatch her up, too.
That’s where I am today. Perched on the edge of my almost empty nest, looking out at a vast and ever-changing world and wondering what to do next. I feel a deep sense of loss, yet I know I must keep singing and maybe even spread my wings and do a little flying of my own.
That means more than working. I’ve been doing that all along. It means redefining my priorities so that motherhood is on a more even plain with other consequential things.
I will always be a mother—but it’s time to be more.