Just got back from driving our son five hours upstate to college this weekend. As we walked through the door, my daughter asked, "Mom, did you cry?" No I didn't cry. But my husband had to put his hands on my shoulders and sternly push me out of there. It was hard to leave. Now I have to just let my boy be. No whiny, needy text messages. No unsolicited advice. Let him call us. Whenever that might be.
Maybe I'll write more about the big college move-in later. I'm still processing it all. For now, I'll just say, when my son was little, he had a book called The Giving Tree. His best friend's mother, a gentle Japanese woman, gave it to him as a fifth birthday gift. Back then, I used to silently resist the story when I read it to my son. It was about a boy who took and took from the tree, wood and branches and bark throughout his life--for pretend play when he was a boy, for a boat as an adventurous young man, to build a house when he started a family, and finally when the boy was very old and frail, and he had taken all he could from the tree, the tree offered him a stump to sit on and rest his aching bones. And always the tree gave of itself selflessly, grateful simply to be able to offer something to the boy. Even though I got the painful beauty of the story, I used to think, How selfish this boy is. Why is he taking so much from the tree? Why isn't he giving anything in return?
This weekend, I finally understood that story as the perfect metaphor for parenthood. It is not about the boy at all. It is about loving someone so deeply that there is nothing of yourself you would not give to see them thrive, to see them happy, to see them comforted.
Now, belatedly, I am crying.