THE LONG GOODBYE

This morning at the park, as I watched the Bug and his buddies play soccer from a nearby bench, he waved to me and called out, “Mommy, Baby, go play in sand!” before running off into the distance.

I waved back and smiled, hoping he couldn’t see me die a little bit inside as Babygirl and I walked over to the playground.

I did it to myself. I know. This is the child I’ve been intentionally raising. A child who is confident, independent, and capable. A child who wants to run and explore and try new things. A child who makes friends and makes decisions, who knows that, however far he ventures off, I will always be here when he comes back.

But still.

I wonder if it ever gets easier to hear, I don’t need you. That’s the cruel joke of parenting, I guess, that you devote yourself so wholly to making sure another person can get by without you. Every day, helping him need you a little less until, finally, he doesn’t at all.

And, for now, these babies need me for plenty. PLENTY. But it’s moments like the one in the park, when the Bug is so confidently his own person, that take me by surprise, painful reminders that he isn’t really mine; he is his own.

After dinner, we heard the high school marching band practicing, so we walked over to watch. I looked at the Bug, sitting there on the steps of the school, eating an ice cream cone, knowing it will feel like tomorrow that he’s there again, a student. I cried behind my sunglasses the entire walk home. The days go by too quickly, and with each one that passes, these two tiny people who grew inside of me, now, grow just a bit farther away. And it’s exactly what I want for them. But, really, it isn’t what I want at all.

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