When Mama Bear Lets Go

Dock jumping last summer
Dock jumping last summer

Fully expecting to be a cool cucumber during last November's mediation, all was well and good until the first go around with the proposed paperwork regarding custody.

Unlike every other time I'd been faced with the reality that is divorce, that day during mediation was the first time I'd been smacked with the realization that separating from my husband meant that my kids would have to learn what it meant to live without their mother.

Naiveté, I now know, is a symptom of the longing for happiness.

Living on my own didn't worry me.

Being single again, paying my separate bills, and finding work (to support my small family) posed new challenges, but none that scared me like this.

As I was handed that initial paperwork, my calm and cool met wind and fire, illustrated by nose blowing, stuttering cries, and a head spinning above my shoulders.

I was, as they say, "A hot mess." 

Considering that my daughters began their existence within my body, making them feel as connected to me as any other of my body parts...

Here, take my arms instead. 

Considering that I’d been the one responsible for all their caring, feeding, and nurturing, too?

Here, take my heart, as well.

It's interesting, really, how a relatively together person can lose their cool when their children's schedule, welfare, wellness, or safety is on the table for discussion.

The Mama Bear Effect is an actual thing.

Like any mother, bear or otherwise, the initial response to big changes for her kids is fear.

How a mom deals with those fears determines how her children adapt.

Eventually the fear turns into acceptance, but time, it turns out, is the key.

Over the past few months, Tuesday nights have become “date night” for dad and his girls, and the ritual of getting dressed up for dinner has become a fun part of my daughter’s new routine.

The girls come back after weekends with their father, happy and fed (if a little more sun-kissed than when they’re with me).

Their first extended weekend with dad was spent swimming, and going downtown for Fourth of July fireworks, both of which they excitedly described the minute they walked back through my door.

Mama Bear learned that her babies were fine. 

Mama Bear’s head stopped spinning.

When I was pregnant I heard someone say a quote that has always made sense to me, but never more than now that the custody agreement’s been finalized and is in effect.

“When you’re pregnant, you’re children belong to you.

When they’re born, they belong to the world.”

It takes a lot for a mother to let her children go at any age, but divorce speeds up the process faster than sometimes feels fair.

At the end of the day, it’s true that none of our children belong to us at all, even if we fool ourselves into believing that they do to avoid the truth behind the quote.

In four days my girls will be off on a plane for the first time without their mother. They’ll fly with their dad to his favorite vacation spot where we always went as a family. They’ll fish and jump off of docks, swim and play with the kids of their dad’s friends.

For ten days, spanning hundreds of miles, my five-year-olds will be off to experience a world that doesn’t include me.

None of it is about me.

So, I’ll wait for their return (as any mother would), to hear every moment they choose to share, excited for them, and excited with them.

Quietly though, whether it’s right or wrong, I’ll be mourning the lie I wanted to believe.

That I ever was their one and only.