In my ongoing literary agent research, I came across a recommendation for a motherhood memoir called The Gift of an Ordinary Day, by Katrina Kenison. I just finished it, savouring the last fifty pages like a gourmet meal I didn’t ever want to end, and I feel profoundly stirred by Kenison’s heartrending observations on letting go of our beloved children.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day details her family’s journey to build a house as their two sons are reaching adolescence and growing away from their parents. It’s a familiar story of loss and change; a road I have yet to travel with my own children but can already sense, heavy in my bone marrow, for one day this metamorphosis from dependent to independent happens to all of us.
And what better time to face up to this fact than right now, the beginning of September, with the challenges and demands of a new school year upon us? We cannot freeze-frame the lives of our children, any more than we can halt the steady march of time for ourselves. The entire process of life itself is moving on: changing, dying, transforming. Nothing is static. Accepting this is better than fighting it.
But sometimes it hurts. We feel a deep ache, in the centre of our being, at just how fast our children are growing. We empty out drawers of pants that are too short and socks that no longer fit. We place pencil marks on closet doors until they are taller than we are. We love them at every stage, but we cannot hold them there. We must learn to let them go. It’s the hardest work there is as the mothers who fed them, rocked them, guided and nurtured them, until they have learned to do all of these things for themselves.
Tomorrow Ava begins grade 7 and William starts grade 4. We celebrate these milestones together, but privately I also mourn the ages that are now behind us, stored only in our memories. Parenting is one long lesson in letting go. It’s about transition, adaptation, surrender. Being a mother means loving with our whole heart, a process that opens us up to feel terrible pain and loss.
When we do our job well, raising kids who contribute positively to society and know how to look after themselves, by definition this means they will one day leave us to make their own way in the world. Each step they take in these school years is a step further from our warm, encompassing care. This is what we signed up for by having kids, but it’s important to acknowledge our own feelings around this process.
I’m so grateful to Katrina Kenison for holding up a light for me as I navigate the path of my daughter’s newfound adolescence. I do not want to overlook the beauty, healing and transformation available in each and every ordinary day to come.