Years ago at a home party that my cousin held to support a woman-owned business selling art, I purchased a print that hung in our house when my children were young. The quote on the print reflected what I thought was one of my core beliefs about parenting. In lovely hand drawn script, it proclaimed that "There are only two lasting bequests we can leave our children. One is roots and the other is wings."
What was I thinking??
The nest is empty. Really empty. While at least one child is still in college, you can cling to the notion that you are still tending the nest. She graduated last May. They both have truly gotten wings and flown. Away. They are both seeking. Neither seems to be settling or settling in. My generation had a more structured road or at least an apparent path to follow.
My two children spent their college years on different coasts; now they are about to be on different continents.
I find myself ruminating. Should I have spent more time on the roots part? Should we have done less traveling and confined our vacations to places like the Jersey Shore, Lake Chatauqua or Niagara Falls? Should I have drawn a circle on a map like the one described to me by another mother who told her children that their college options were limited to an eight hour drive from home?
I am shoulding all over myself these days. Should I have worked less? Should I have been a better cook, a better housekeeper? We live in a wonderful city. Even the National Geographic says so.
And what does that saying mean anyway? Does it mean they fly away and remember where they came from? Does it mean they come back for selected holidays and call home once a week?
I am not handling this well at all. Intellectually I know they have to go. And I keep reminding myself that with all of the available technology we are still connected in ways that were not possible just a generation or two ago. My own father's father died when he was a year old and he was raised by a step mother in a hill town in Italy for reasons I have never fully understood. She sent him to the local tailor so he could learn a skill and when he was still in his teens, kissed him goodbye and sent him off to America. She did not see him again for two decades and then it was for the last time. He bought her a stove and when he went back in later years, a tombstone for her grave.
I find myself wanting to talk to her. How did you do it? Did you cry? Maybe that's just the way it was and she stoically sent him across the ocean in a manner that was common in that era. There was nothing for him there and she sent him off with hope.
I find myself reflecting on Khalil Gibran's beliefs.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you and yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday.