Some of you may not know that I am divorced, and my daughter, Gabrielle, is from my first marriage. That whole phase of life was tumultuous to say the least, but we all came out of it alive and with a new future we are building together.
I made peace (although initially it broke my heart) that my daughter has to overcome some hurdles early in life that ever so slightly take away a bit of her innocence. She regularly has to pack herself up and get shuffled from house to house. She never has all her things in one place. While having two families, two bedrooms, two different routines, and two different parenting styles could be daunting and confusing, she handles it like a champ. This girl, fortunately, was born with a strong sense of who she is, where she is going, and what she wants.
While I see some signs of anxiety from time to time, mostly she goes with the flow in a very responsible and measured manner. She certainly does need us to plot out her next moves for her so that mentally she can organize herself and plan for what's coming (a girl after my own heart). She constantly asks "Ok, so who will pick me up tomorrow? Whose house will I stay at?". The realization that she knows she doesn't just have one home and has bit more chaotic schedule than some of her peers breaks my heart a little bit every time I hear those questions. But she doesn't seemed fazed. She is surrounded by so much love.
You know who doesn't always handle the shuffling and the mental tax of divorce seamlessly?
Summer times are particular difficult because my daughter spends longer periods away from both me and her father. Gabrielle's paternal side of the family lives in France, so every summer she makes the trek to France to spend 2 - 3 weeks with her extended family. While I love that she gets this world experience and is able to spend quality time with family, it's hard on a mommy's heart.
I had to learn early on that I will drive myself crazy if I try to protect her from all the things. I think this is a lesson all of us moms are faced with at some point, but generally it's not while our children are little, so innocent, and unaware of all the harm that could come to them in the world. When they are babies and toddlers, our number one job duty as parents is to keep them safe and loved.
I had to give up control over protecting her from the great big world.
While some parents face this fear down when their kids go off to camp for the first time or even when they demand their independence in their teenage years, I sent my 2 year old off to be out of my range of protection (albeit her father is a very caring and excellent protector of her).
I come from a long, LONG line of women in control of their household. Giving up this bit of oversight and mother-henning my daughter is, to say the least, one of the MOST challenging hurdles of my life thus far.
And every summer it never lets up.
She is a big 5 years old now. And today she departs on another big adventure. I know she will taste the best food, see the most amazing mountain views, smell the fresh French air, and happily play to her heart's content. And I also know I will not be there to protect her when she gets afraid in the night. I cannot ward off each of the potential lurking hazard in her way. Nor can I kiss boo boos and assuage upsetting upsetting events.
My stomach jumps into my throat regularly throughout these weeks, and tears fill my eyes. It tends to overtake me at the most random moments, like when I go to greet the checker at the grocery store or when I sit down for an important business meeting. But I consciously choose over and over to celebrate her bold, adventurous spirit and all the amazing memories she is making.
Safe travels, my little one. I love you to the moon and back.