a safe place for her to land

The goal of raising children is what?

To help them grow and leave and go out on their own, right?

The downside of that is, if you do your job right,


My oldest had to say goodbye to both of my parents, two of the people she loved most in this world, way too soon in the past two years.  She aged and matured in the midst of that pain.  Then she went to college three months ago, and I saw the first shoots of her independent self bursting through. I realized I was catching a glimpse of whom she’s becoming, whom she’s going to be “when she grows up.”

This week she has had to, once again, say goodbye to someone she cared about. Way too soon.  I didn’t see her until after it was all over.  I talked to her regularly, but I wasn’t there to hold her hand, to give her a hug, to decide what she could hear or be exposed to.  I wasn’t there to protect her when the unkind things were said or when the really hard things happened.  All I could do was offer to be where she needed me to be when she needed me and wait and listen.  Letting her do this all by her big girl self, as she used to call it, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

All I could do was sit back and watch her spread her wings…..

and be a safe place for her to land. 

She’s in the midst of learning what it means to be grownup.

And finding out it’s more than using curse words at will.  Or picking out your own clothes.

It’s learning to sit back and hold your tongue, even when the other person is being unkind or foolish.  It’s learning when to speak and when not to.

Being grownup means doing something even if you don’t want to, because it is, as Baddest Mother Ever says, “the next right thing.”   It glitters like fun but hurts like heartbreak, and when it’s all said and done, most of us who are grownups are left looking around wishing the real grownup would appear, because this is so much harder than we ever thought it would be.

When I was younger, so much younger, I thought being grownup meant watching whatever you wanted on TV as late as you wanted, eating whatever you liked, chewing a pack of gum a day, talking on the phone whenever you wanted to, driving without limits, being with friends and coming in and not having to get up and do chores the next morning.  I think when none of this actually came to fruition I was a bit shocked.  Yeah, all that glitter and fun and the like–it’s not real.

Real grownups cry.  They laugh at the faces babies make and the things their children say way harder than they ever did at any joke.  They have relationships that matter and they work to keep them.  They work hard before they ever get to play.  Sometimes they go days without “playing.”  Or weeks.  Or longer.  They say I’m sorry and don’t have to be right all of the time.  Real grownups rarely get to sit at Starbucks for hours sipping lattes and reading the latest People magazine.  They say thank you and mean it and then try to pay it forward.  They bring joy to others, and as my Mama would tell us, they act like they are somebody.

As I watch this one, whom I swanee was in diapers and onesies just last week, grow and make mature choices, I sometimes have to bite my tongue.  And sit on my hands.  I want to help, but this week has shown me that my little bird is sitting at the edge of the nest.  And ready or not, this girl is learning to fly and doing a pretty good job of it.

And while I realize that people like my parents and so many others have played a huge part in who she is, I also think about the things I’ve tried to teach her, and I give thanks.  Sometimes it seems like she really was listening.  And then I remember the little girl who was headstrong and adorable, just like her precious niece is now, who would curl up next to me on Friday nights and listen to the jazz music on public radio as we lay there in the dark,  and I curse a little myself.

Time.  And the job I did.

Sometimes I wish she would need me a little longer.

Then I smile.  She will need me.  Little birds have to take a rest and return to the nest every now and then. And those are the moments I will treasure the most.  The ones where we talk and I hear all about her adventures in the big blue sky out there.

A page has turned.  She is growing up on me.

Where is the Grownup?

Some days.....

Some days…..

Some days I feel like this.  Today has been one of them.

I am sitting at the Med Stop with my middle one. She has been running fever since Friday night. I guess this is Round 2 of what the littles had two weeks ago. Waiting on the results from the strep swab now.
It is moments like this one tonight, when I saw that her temp had gone into a very worrisome range, that I look around, wondering where the grownup is.  The One Who Makes the Decision.  So often I feel like I am just filling in until he or she shows up.  I wish they would hurry it up.

I know there were several times with my firstborn that I felt that way, ill-equipped to handle the situation. The one that sticks out the most is the time we were stationed in Japan and Aub came home from school with a high fever. She threw up her medication for the fever, and I was very worried. And very pregnant with this one I am with tonight.  So we went to the ER at the base hospital. A very overzealous first time ER doc came in and wanted to do a spinal tap. (I’m sorry, WHAT did you say?!  You want to do what, and the risks are what?!!)  I was scared senseless. I was far from Mama, it was the middle of the night where she was, and I didn’t have a way to call her from the hospital anyway. I felt helpless and lost. After a call to a local friend who was a nurse, I felt a little better. But it was Dr. Elnicky who came in when the shift changed and apologized for the previous doctor’s recommendation. “Overzealous” was her term. She brought Aub’s fever down and sent us home.  (I loved Dr. E.  She had such a quiet competence. When I went in with severe cramping about midway through my pregnancy with this girl, she was the one who calmly said, after many tests, “I think you have a case of bad” lowered to a whisper, “gas.” Oh my.)  Thank you Dr. E for being the adult at those times when I was very afraid.

When Daddy was diagnosed three and half years ago and things became dire, Mama was right there. And even when we were all frightened or sad, she was the grownup who loved us through it.

So last August when Mama went in for the first HospitalStay, it was very frightening. I drove my grownup to the ER as she shivered violently under several blankets. When we got there a half hour later, thanks to a detour, she could not walk on her own into the ER. I tried to hold it together as I went inside and asked for a wheelchair. A sweet nurse came out and helped me move Mama to the chair. They moved her through pretty quickly, thank goodness. When they checked her temperature and found it was 105.3, they rushed her back to a room and left me to give her information to the intake nurse. This was when the terrible fear kicked in. 105.3? That was a radio station. Not someone’s temperature. Not my Mama’s.

I anxiously gave the nurse Mama’s allergies and insurance and medical history. Finally they let me back. Mama was so pale and weak. And not able to be the grownup at all in that moment. It was a paradigm shift. One that never really returned to an even keel.
I called my Aunt to give her an update. I whispered from the corner of the tiny room on the wall phone in the room. Cell phone reception was next to nothing in there. I told her all I knew and then tearfully said, “I feel like I’m just waiting on the grownup to show up and take over.”
She chuckled softly, and then said sweetly and clearly, “Oh Tara, I hate to tell you this, but you ARE the grownup.”
Oh. No.

We were talking yesterday morning and I teased her, saying that she was lucky I spoke to her at all after she broke that little bit of bad news to me.

It’s nights like this one, when worry creeps in and my ineptitude becomes painfully obvious, that I find myself still looking. Really I’m just filling in until She gets here. You know, the grownup.  I am sure she’s quite lovely, but I do wish she’d hurry up. It gets tiresome playing grownup. Especially when one of mine gets sick or there is drama and heartbreak behind their tears. Incompetent doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.

Tonight I am thankful for my family and friends who walk with me as I try my grownup feet out. For their patience and guidance I give thanks. I also appreciate those who fill in as the grownup from time to time. Like Miss D who, two weeks ago, when telling me what to do, pointed her finger at me and said, “Now I ain’t your Mama and I can’t take her place, but I reckon I can look after you and keep you straight since she can’t right now.” And my Aunt. Who answers my calls and listens, when she must have a hundred things to do instead. And Mama’s sweet neighbor. Who is always there to help with things.  And so many others. Bless ’em.

Because of the reprieves they give me, I am able to get through the times when it’s the hardest to be the grownup. Like tonight. We are home now, and the strep test was negative. The doctor said this just has to take its course. Kind of like life. We have to watch it and respond accordingly.

So I get it, I’m the grownup. *yawn* And as the grownup, I do believe it’s time to call it a night.  Being a grownup is exhausting sometimes.  So I’m off to Neverland and a good night’s sleep.  I hope.  Someone has to be rested to be the grownup again tomorrow…..

pic of peter pan quote