“If I know Becky,” my dad says, “she’s going to spend the next two weeks saying to herself, ‘Is she ok? Is she having a good time? Is everything going alright’? She needs me! And if I know Skylar,” he continues, “she’ll just be having a great time, being the life of the party, leading everyone around.”
He’s right. On both accounts.
It’s day one of her two weeks at sleep away camp. I miss her. I was on the verge of tears last night as she’s never been away from home this long. I am thinking all those things my dad said I would think. I’m also wondering how I get through these two weeks without her. I always do. I’m a worrier. More accurately, I’m a planner. I like things orderly and under control. I like to be able to anticipate the next move.
One common theme I hear from many parents who have lost a child is that they don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Problems no longer seem so big, so daunting. Not after the unimaginable loss they’ve suffered. I wish I could say that was the case for me, but conversely, it had just seemed to make me into someone who now finds themselves acting neurotic. Suddenly everything seems to be an issue. Little things feel like big things. I struggle to keep every moving part in its place. I want consistency.
Some parents of child loss have told me that they actually find they are distancing themselves from their children. It’s a psychological need to guard their hearts. Hearts that can’t handle another loss like the one they’ve already suffered. A preemptive attempt to soften any oncoming blows.
I understand this thought process. My reaction after the loss of our Miss Elliott, however has been to grip everything tighter. To hold on a little longer. To savor every second, even after it’s gone. Feeble, I know, but nonetheless, if I could will time to stop I would never let another second tick by. I’d live in this current moment forever.
The struggle is to find balance. I haven’t (yet) let the neuroticism take over. I actively try to make sure that I’m allowing her to grow and thrive, and experience life on her own terms…well, sort of. Evaluating every day to ask myself; was I too strict, too permissive, etc. What’s the magic formula?
My husband tells me it’s the worry that let’s you know you’re a good mother, because really, when you break it down, worrying (within reason) just means you care.
She’s strong and outgoing, and like my dad said, she’ll probably be running the place by the time the week is out. We joked that there’ll be no tearful phone calls home in the middle of the night asking us to come pick her up. And I’m proud. Proud of her strong will, gumption, and tenacity. Proud of her unbroken spirit, outspoken opinions, and every-present resiliency.
After the summer she’ll be going into eighth grade. I only have one more year until she’s in high school. How did it happen? Where did the time go?
The most important lesson my parents have taught me that carries over into my own parenthood is just to “love them”. In the end it’s the only thing you really do have control over. Just love them, and let them grow.