Fifteen

My daughter turned 15 yesterday. She’s had a boyfriend for several weeks; went to the Snowball dance with him at school last weekend; has Valentine’s Day plans with him.

Her dad gave her tickets to see Hamilton in Chicago as her Christmas and birthday gifts combined. So she was in Chicago with him yesterday. She promised to take lots of pictures and send them to me. She sent one, and then I didn’t hear from her all weekend until I had to text her dad to make sure everything was ok. She finally wrote and said she just kept getting distracted. She was only home for an hour and a half before it was time for her and her brothers to leave and stay at their dad’s house for the next three weeks. She would not hug me to say hello or goodbye. She was pissed at me because I wouldn’t stop the cycle of laundry I was in the middle of so that she could run her own load through. I explained to her that I’d been doing laundry all day and had washed and folded all of her and her brothers’ stuff so that they’d have plenty to take to their dad’s for the next three weeks. Didn’t matter. She was still pissed that she couldn’t immediately wash the clothes she’d taken with her for the weekend. She humphed out the door tonight without a goodbye or a backward glance.

These next three weeks are the longest my kids and I have ever been apart. I’m sure it matters less to them than to me. But in fifteen years as a mother, the longest I’ve been away from my kids is two weeks when I visited Italy, and despite having a great time there, I broke down several times from missing them and not having a strong enough sense of myself to properly exist day-to-day without having them around to take care of. I’m not going to have the distraction of a beautiful foreign country to engage me over the next three weeks. Just work and canceling my student status at Pitt–again.

Yesterday was hard. Fifteen years as someone’s mother seems like it should mean something. I did fifteen years worth of work on her, but the celebration was with her dad. He takes her to musicals that she and I love. He takes her to salons to get her hair done. He takes her for manicures and clothes shopping. I only have one daughter. And somehow, he gets to do all these fun firsts with her.  I just don’t understand what all the work and effort is for. Other people get the payoff. Other people get the credit and the one person I had hoped all my effort would matter to doesn’t give a shit whether I’m present or not.

It’s not her fault that it all feels hard for me. It’s not her fault that the death of the child before her placed so much importance and longing and redemption on her whole existence. It’s not her fault that she always felt more special, more necessary, more anticipated as a result of the pain and the lack that preceded her. It’s not her fault and it’s not fair to her that I needed her. That I needed her tiny new life to fill in the enormous throbbing void left in my soul.

None of it is fair.

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