On Missing My Kids

There are days as a mom of adult kids where you miss your children so much that you physically ache. You feel it in your bones. It’s not the sharp pain of an acute appendicitis, rather, it’s the dull ache of arthritis. You remember each labor and delivery, the final push that ushered them into the world. You remember gazing at those eyes, nose, ears, mouth completely in awe of the mystery of birth, the mystery of motherhood.

You know in that moment of birth that you will never forget. Never. That these tiny humans that lived in your womb for nine months, sometimes more and sometimes less, are connected to you in an unfathomable mystery.

You know also, though you don’t want to think about it, that they are yours for only a time. After that, who’s to know?

You break inside for the knowledge that the world will sometimes hurt your child. You know this, because you are an adult and the world has not always been kind to you.

The years go by – some interminably slow, others far too fast. And then – they are adults.

You love the conversations. You love watching them with their friends. You love the unique place they hold in the world. You love watching them connect and find their place. And yet, they are no longer in your house. The daily check ins of “when will you be home?” no longer apply. This is when you know that when your mother says on the phone “I love you more!” it’s true. For you now know the immeasurable love of a mother for her children.

Parenting is a dance and you are in the stage called ‘slow jazz.’

I think about this today as I look at pictures on my shelf. I smile at each kid as though they are present when the reality is far different. I think about the parenting dance, the way it begins as a slow dance or ballet. The music is beautiful and haunting. That baby we take home from the hospital, from the orphanage, from the foster care system comes into our lives, and while everything changes, it’s a slow change. We have anticipated this for a long time. The baby blankets and onesies are purchased and waiting. We have bought or borrowed a crib for the little one. The curtain goes up and the ballet begins.

Every movement of that first baby feels recorded in our hearts and memories, it seems like forever. The first smile, the day they sleep through the night, their eating, pooping, sleeping habits all weave their way into our lives.

As another child comes the music changes and the slow dance stops, replaced by the chicken dance where there’s little grace, just a lot of squawking and moving. It’s fun but it’s exhausting.

Middle years are the Macarena and Bollywood. There’s a rhythm and grace and fun. You got this thing. You can criticize other parents because wow – your kids are amazing and their kids? Better beware because they are headed straight to the state penitentiary by way of the principal’s office. But not yours. Oh. No. Yours are amazing and talented and oh you are so thankful for Grace. The Grace given to you of course – not that bestowed on others.

Every parent thinks they dance well during the middle years!

Then the teen years come and you bow humbly even as the dance changes from the Macarena and Bollywood (which you love) to that of rock and roll where your head is splitting and you don’t understand the words but you think you caught a swear in there. It’s so fast you are spinning. The activities, the angst, the long talks punctuated by angry silence, the fun yet exhausting dance of rock and roll.

And then comes parenting adult children. 

And suddenly it all changes. It becomes like jazz music: you agree on the notes and then you improvise. Negotiation becomes a key word. The parental dance goes back and forth between being too worried and too involved and throwing your hands up saying “Well, it’s their life!” But even though you throw those words around, you are always there waiting. When the text comes at midnight, you hear the buzz. When the call comes in early morning hours, you know to take it. When they make decisions you disagree with, you know that you love them fiercely and will love and pray for them until the day you die.

Slow jazz is in the background, but no longer a central part of your life. The furniture is rearranged and the house echoes with empty. You miss them deep in your soul, but you know you’ve raised them with wings to fly and they are exercising those wings well.

There are times when you pour over photo albums and you remember when they were so little. And you think “I thought they were so big. I expected so much out of them.” But you realize now that they were so little and the world was so big.

And though the dance has changed dramatically through the years, you pray that even as you occasionally stumble and fall you will dance every step with grace.


Note: Excerpts from this were first published in 2014.

11 thoughts on “On Missing My Kids

  1. Oh yes! so very true. Especially when they’re scattered all over the globe and there’s a pandemic changing every plan for reuniting. Somehow in the midst of the ache God holds each of us and will see us through

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  2. My baby is now a gorgeous 20 year old – the youngest of 4- last year she left for university- the Covid in March brought her home on an almost empty flight wearing a mask 😷Though I detest what it is doing in so many ways- the walks we’ve shared & the conversations have been a gift. Loved your words- being a mother the best & the hardest 🌈

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. Exactly. So much yes.

    And, I think of my own siblings, our own laughs and trials and struggles with our parents. My parents, and their siblings. And, their parents…

    You and I are part of a family continuum, caught up in the very stuff of which life is made.
    Thank you, Marilyn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ChaplainEliza, I love your “family continuum.” My husband’s niece recently loaned us a packet of old letters and papers with letters, poems, and other papers found in her Mother’s drawers, many 100 years old or older. This is such a treasure, a window into my husband’s parents and grandparents’ lives. It gives us such a wonderful connection to these previous generations. Thanks for your comment. Marilyn’s Mom

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      1. How wonderful to have these precious “windows” into a past not too far removed. Your family has countless connections, and these letters and other papers reveal glimpses of times past. Valued and much loved lives past, too.

        Sadly, I reflect upon how little tangible evidence we leave today. So few actual/physical letters, cards, and other papers. Even photos are often snapped on smartphones and deleted as memory cards get full…

        And, it’s kind of you to reach out across the internet connections. Many blessings to you and your family – in its many generations!
        Elizabeth

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  4. Thank you Marilyn. In this year of isolation and disconnection, I yearn for my girls to be near more than ever. Yet that is not our reality as they have been spread out across the globe for several years now. Our oldest just turned 30 and in a month she will be off to New Zealand for at least a year, maybe longer, with a fine young man who may become her husband. My wife asked her promise that no wedding take place until we can be present to celebrate with her. Our middle daughter lived in Syria and Iraq a year ago, doing good work, until the war started there. As we breathed a sigh of relief upon her safe return, we were still a continent apart, but looked forward to frequent visits. Then the virus. We have seen her one lovely time this year. Our youngest daughter and her husband live just a few states away, but that too feels far. There is talk of a first grandchild in the year to come.
    I look at the small faces in photos under a frame in our family room which states, “Home is where your story begins.” Sometimes this story, their stories, seem to emanate from another life. But of course we are all tied together into a mysterious tapestry.

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