Last month my daughter lived here and now she doesn't.
First came love, then came marriage and then came the happily ever after. But for me, somewhere along the way came the empty bedroom across the hall and the new relationship we are transitioning into.
My daughter, Natalie got married 6 weeks ago to the Christian man of her dreams, David. He makes her so happy and has such a kind heart, we couldn't be happier for the both of them. All during her college years and dating, Natalie chose to live at home and we knew that it would be quite a change around here when she moved after they got married. I know the Bible says that "the woman is to leave her home" and to "become one with her husband." and we urged her to adhere to this principle. I thought I was prepared for her moving out, but she is my first born and it has not been easy.
My sister and a close friend at church are also joining me on this journey of loosening the apron strings. Both have daughters going away to college and missing them as well. All of us have been surprised at the strange times and strange things that seem to trigger our tears: the empty cars parked in the driveway, the empty bedroom, and for me it was the lack of my exercise partner and the empty spot at the dinner table. For 23 years my daughter has sat to dinner at my table, and it will take some time to undo that. I miss not getting to touch her, stroking her hair and even her smell. Carrying on our relationship, primarily by phone, just isn't enough. However, unlike my sister and friend, their situations are temporary. Their daughters will be living sporadically back in the fold of the family again, especially holidays and summers. My situation has more permanence to it. This chapter is closed with my daughter and at least for the first three weeks it was an emotion akin to mourning.
(I know it sounds like she moved away to some foreign country, instead of 30 minutes away , but writers, not to mention mothers are very emotional people and feel so deeply. I am convinced that all of us writer/moms need to take stock in the Kleenex corporation.)
The good news is that 6 weeks later, no tears are falling and life is getting into a new routine, with a lot of our old routines mixed in. My biggest realization is that whenever she comes to visit, about 1-2 times a week, it is . . . different. While Natalie is still my daughter, she now comes to my house as a guest. Like our other friends and family, she and her husband call before they come, bring food to help out with meals, and help out with the clean up. My husband and I have found ourselves unconsciously playing the part of host and hostess. When we know they are coming I start cleaning up the living room, gathering all the newspapers and magazines. He starts working in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and cleaning cabinet tops. (Yes, I know I am lucky to have a guy who know how to load a dishwasher!)
It seems that when they are coming it is an "event" now and, of course, events must have homemade meals and desserts. My husband and I even discuss what will be on the evening's agenda for entertainment: board games? cards? DVDs? television??? Instead of heading for bed at first yawn, as I would do when they were dating, I feel that either my husband or myself need to stay up and see them to their car and wave from the front porch; just as all thoughtful hosts do. Why are we doing this? Natalie and David have seen this living room cluttered with newspapers. They know what the kitchen looks like in stressful weeks of school. Natalie was living in it all only a few weeks ago. What is changed?
I believe that marriage has somewhat leveled the playing field of adulthood. Without a word between us, our actions are signaling we accept them as adults. Our relationship with them is becoming more of a friendship quality and less parental. But that doesn't mean we always have to act like adults. We still tease, chase and play "bootie tag", a game of who gets the last slap on the rump. Natalie seeks out longer hugs and cuddles than she used to, as if she knows how valuable they really are and how long they have to sustain her until she comes back. I even hear her gently scold her new husband, "David, you are not supposed to be going through my parents' pantry now." I jump in and assure him he could still raid the pantry if he were hungry, just as he did when they were dating. "But mom," Natalie interjects, "you don't do that when you go to your mother's house." She is right. I realize I am patterning things from my own relationship with my mother. When I visit my mother , she always treats me as a revered guest and sends me on my way totally full of food, attention and love.
So what I think is a new transition in our relationship has actually been played out years before and I have subconsciously copied it. And why not. . . . it works. I am now looking forward to getting to know my daughter and son-in-law as certified adults. As usual, my mom was right as she advised me to stop looking back and start looking forward. But, be patient with yourself as you transition there.
I would love to hear how you are coping with transitions in your relationships.