by Laura Benedict
The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom...
American critic and writer
Just last Friday, I watched as Pom drove away with only Bengal in the car for the very first time. It was also the first time she drove the car without me, her father or her grandfather with her. I had been anticipating that day for many months—okay, many years—okay, since I lay on my side in my bed one dark night, newly pregnant with her—but the depth of what I’m feeling has me completely overwhelmed.
I imagined I would be fretful about her being in an accident, or parking in dark, scary parking lots, or being carjacked, or getting lost and having to ask directions from the only house for miles around: that of a backwoods meth dealer with a predilection for blue-eyed sixteen year-old girls. I know things will happen about which she’ll say to her brother, “Mommy can never, ever know what just happened!” I make my living with my imagination. It knows no bounds when it comes to tragedy. Other moms have covered such fears beautifully here--rather they have written beautifully about adjusting to them. As I read Nina’s wonderful post about her son’s gaining confidence and independence when he mastered public transportation, I quailed a bit. I felt a little ashamed—perhaps I’m one of those “parent-as-bodyguard” moms. I’ll have to ponder that.
But all those fears are buried for the moment as I am now buzzed on the adrenalin of a new worry: Pom doesn’t need me so much anymore.
It first hit me when my DH and I watched Pom back out of a parking space near the restaurant where we’d all just had lunch. “Remember when they let us leave the hospital with her?” DH said. Now THAT was a weird moment. I gave birth at a hospital two hours from our home and, three days later, the nurse just checked that we had a car seat and waved us off. About ten minutes into the trip we said, almost at the same moment, “Can you believe they let us just drive away with her? With no one to supervise?” But it hit me harder these sixteen years later when I returned to our empty house and realized that I wouldn’t have to hop back in the car a few hours later and pick up Pom and Bengal at school. (I had dropped DH at work.) It was just me. In the empty house. Alone with the dog. In the empty, quiet house. The rather messy, empty, quiet house.
Worse, there was a student government meeting after school to which Pom had to drag Bengal. Then DH and I had a function to go to and wouldn’t be home until almost 10:00. It felt like a very long day.
I haven’t been so great at building up Pom’s independence. She’s as responsibility-lazy as I let her be. Thank goodness she’s academically ambitious and is highly self-interested. I’m a big fan of enlightened self-interest. It’s what saved my naïve little rear end a thousand times before I turned eighteen. I wouldn’t be surprised if, now that she has a taste of independence, she’ll develop a real taste for it. She’s my daughter after all.
Writing this, I realize that the half-stunned, untethered fear inside me right now isn’t so much that my children won’t need me—it’s the realization that I need to be needed. Oh. It feels weird to say that. I’ve always prided myself on my independence, and have been—for almost all of my life—fond of the phrase, “No, thank you. I can manage just fine all by myself!” But, apparently, that’s not quite true. I can’t get by so well without someone else to focus on. I love to fuss-over, feed, cuddle, love, nibble, tote, fetch, yell, and provide-for. I love to button-up, zip-into, tease, tuck-in, and listen. These things have filled my life for so long, I don’t know what I’ll do without a steady diet of them.
I know I have a few years left, particularly with Bengal. And there is my long-suffering DH to tend to. We don’t date often, though we talk, talk, talk and laugh a lot. Our plan is to be here for one another long after both kids drive away.
As Pom and I stood in line waiting to order lunch that afternoon, she (in most dramatic Pom-fashion) threw her arms wide and said, “The possibilities are just endless!” I wish you could have seen her smile!
Maybe her new driver’s license actually means the same thing for both of us: freedom. I wonder if she’s as scared as I am.