Everything seemed fine this morning – really, it did:
The sun was shining as my daughter bounded out of her room and straight into the bathroom to begin getting ready for the day. She ate a good breakfast and got dressed in her free-dress clothes. We chatted and laughed on the way to school. And lest we forget, today was Friday. The best day of all.
But as I unwrapped myself from our goodbye hug and pulled away to look at her one last time before I left, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. Her face crumpled as she buried it back against my hip.
“My goodness, Zoey!” I exclaimed, startled by her seemingly-out-of-nowhere emotions. “What’s wrong??”
“I don’t know, Mommy,” she said. “I don’t know.”
I held her against my hip for a few moments, long enough to hear another admission escape her lips:
“I just don’t want you to leave.”
But, of course, I had to go.
I wiped her eyes with the back of my sleeve and handed her over to a friend who was blessedly waiting for her with open arms.
As I drove to work, baffled and bewildered, I defaulted to my saving grace in parenting: My mom.
“Corey,” she said. “Think of all the things that are going on. Of course she just wants you. You’re her person.”
After I hung up, I put myself in Zoey’s shoes. We’re in the middle of a move, and she’s fighting with the pull of the memories of our apartment and excitement for our new home. The end of the school year is approaching and, in less than a month, her days will be up-heaved again.
Zoey’s always had a hard time with transitions, and we’ve worked over the years to find ways to make saying goodbye easier, be it through secret handshakes or hand-drawn hearts on wrists or extra hugs and kisses. At seven, I would think she would be past this by now.
Yet here I am as an adult, and even I struggle saying goodbye to the people I love. When I say goodbye to my parents after a visit, I feel my heartstrings pull. When I say goodbye to the man I love, I feel a twinge of sadness, hoping the next time I see him is sooner rather than later. And when I say goodbye to Zoey, there is always a distant, dull ache, the one called motherhood, that wants this little extension of me to stay right by my side, forever and always.
So I went to Target on my lunch break and found this sweet little charm necklace, one that I will give her when I pick her up later today. I will lift up her hair and put it around her neck and tell the story of how I totally understand. That I get it. That saying goodbye is hard for me, too.
I’ll tell her that I hope these nestled hearts help, that the little one fits perfectly inside the big one, just like her heart and mine – and since we can’t always physically be side by side, that I hope she knows that she’s always in my heart no matter where each of us are.
I have no idea if this will help. I sure hope it does. But at least I’m trying, day in and day out, to be the best mother I know how. To do the best I can and to be there for her the best I can.
Even if it’s in the form of two tiny rose gold hearts, bought hastily but intentionally on a too-short lunch break, hanging around her neck, representing our love and those hard goodbyes and our fragile, but unbreakable, lifeline to each other.