She Used to Be Mine…I think

Please forgive this totally selfish, self-indulgent post.  I’m sitting on my couch feeling sorry for myself right now, and I totally shouldn’t be…

At church on Easter Sunday, our pastor referenced the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book.  I hadn’t thought of that book in years.  It was, in essence, like a Bible for me during my early years as a parent…a daily devotional if you will.  I read it cover to cover at least twice, maybe more as we hit rough patches and went back to it as a reference. 

At some point, I gained confidence as a parent and no longer needed the books in the series.  Unfortunately, there is not a book called What to Expect When Your Kids Grow Up or What to Expect When Your Kids Go To College.  I have to say I need that book right now.  There is a reason those books don’t exist, at least not as a catchy bestseller.  Those books are not full of hope, excitement, and thrills for the future.

I actually know what to expect when a kid goes to college.  It’s brutally sad at first and then it becomes the new normal and you realize that life will never be as it was before.  You will never be as important in your child’s life as you were before.  I was talking to Will earlier and realizing that although he’s coming home in a couple of weeks for the summer, he is wishing it was just for a weekend and not for the summer.  It’s his time now, I realized.  He is truly beginning his own story where John and I are just supporting characters and no longer protagonists in his tale.

I think that is why I’m struggling right now.  When Claire leaves for college, as she finds her own path as Will has already, she will need me less and less.  It’s tangibly painful and extremely joyful at the same time.  This independence, of course, has been the goal of parenting.  It is what we have worked so hard to help them achieve, yet where does that leave us moms. 

I can’t remember who I was before being a mom.  Last summer, Claire and I spent a weekend in New York and we saw Waitress on Broadway, which we both loved.  Near the end of Act II, Jessie Mueller as Jenna delivered the amazing song “She Used to Be Mine.”  Claire and I both cried.  The story follows a very unhappily married waitress who is trying to accept her pregnancy as she is married to an abusive man.  Although the situation in the story is so different than mine right now, I couldn’t help but relate to what I was hearing – a woman trying to remember who she was before.  The thing is for me, I don’t want to remember that person.  I wanted to be a mom, I think, more than any other dream I had. I was the girl who played with dolls until I was ridiculously old.  Every other accomplishment of mine truly pales in comparison to my children.  It just seems so unfair that the time we have with our children passes like a fleeting glance. 

This transition now is marked by big milestones and a lot of lasts:  last prom, last dance competition, last recital, last day of school, graduation.  Milestones come throughout parenting.  I don’t remember mourning the last day in diapers as the end of an era — jeez, that couldn’t come soon enough.  I wish someone had told me to remember that day, to shed a tear when bottles/pacifiers/sippy cups are through, to mentally note the last time they ask Santa for toys.

It’s selfish.  There are friends who would give anything to be crying the silly tears I am just to have the chance to see their kids reach these milestones.  I feel guilty when I think of them, and very, very selfish.  Yet for today, I’m going to be a little sad about this era coming to an end.  I’m going to remember these milestones that I have left while she still lives at home and still needs me day to day.  Sometime, next fall, when she’s at school with her brother, I’ll try to remember who I used to be.  Maybe I’ll discover what the song says, “”She’s imperfect but she tries / She is good but she lies / She is hard on herself / She is broken and won’t ask for help / She is messy but she’s kind / She is lonely most of the time / She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie / She is gone but she used to be mine.”

Anne Frank, “Half-Pint,” and the Kind of Grandparent I Want To Be One Day

On one of my many trips to our nation’s capital, I bought a book about Anne Frank for my daughter; Claire was about 10 at the time.  I remember learning about Anne Frank, not really in school exactly, but from reading a Scholastic magazine with an excerpt of the script from the 1980 Melissa Gilbert movie based on Anne Frank’s diary.  I was compelled by her story then, probably more because I loved Melissa Gilbert and it was fascinating to see her in something besides her prairie dress.

Over the years, as I matured past my devotion to “Half-Pint,” I began to understand the wonder of Anne Frank’s story.  It wasn’t until I became a teacher that her words truly impacted me.  That is when I actually read her diary in full.  To be in her situation and to be able to still believe as she wrote that people were still good just filled me with such wonder. 

Last night, I met with a group of women.  We ate snacks, talked about our families, and talked about the future.  While talking, we all took pen to paper and wrote to our Senators and Congressional Representatives.  We wrote to members of both parties.  Each person there wrote their own messages.  I tried to take an encouraging tone.  I do appreciate the work that those working in government do on behalf of the people, and I believe wholeheartedly that most do it for the right reasons, even though I might not agree with all of their policies.  It was nice to feel like I was taking action in the wake of recent circumstances, when my belief that the people who are in the highest office maybe aren’t in it for the right reasons.

While we were writing, one of the women said that she wanted to say to our leaders, “What do you want your grandchildren to think about the decisions that you make when they study this time period in school?”  I found that prolific. 

And that brings me back to Anne Frank and my daughter.  When she read the book, I didn’t think to warn her about the ending.  I’ll never forget holding her when she realized Anne had died.  That night I remember wondering if I would have been brave enough to be Miep Gies.  Would I have been brave enough to risk everything to save someone else even if it was the right thing to do?  Would I have landed myself on the right side of history?

I want to think I would have.  That’s why I’m speaking out now. 

I have another friend.  A wonderful, loving, well-educated friend post a Facebook message about Liberals needing to give the new President a chance.  I don’t think it’s just the liberals who have a problem with what is happening.  I don’t consider Senator Graham of South Carolina a liberal.  I don’t consider Senator McCain of Arizona a liberal.  Former Secretary Condoleeza Rice is not a liberal. 

This is not about liberals.  It’s not about conservatives.  It’s about being on the right side of history.  Unfortunately, most issues are complex.  If they were simple, so many people wouldn’t be so upset.  I have friends on both sides of most of the issues facing our country today.  I wouldn’t call a person a friend if I didn’t respect that at his/her core was a value of caring about others and strong integrity. 

So as I close, I am thinking about what kind of grandparent I’m going to be.  When my grandchildren who have yet to be born [and hopefully that is years and years away], look back on this period of time and ask me how I responded to the politics of 2017, what will my answer be?