I love being a mom. The one most significant, life-changing event that has occurred over the course of my life is having a kid. Our beautiful daughter is now on the cusp of starting a new adventure. Next Monday, we head out to California where she will be attending college. We’re so proud of her, and I can’t wait to hear about how she likes her classes and professors, the new friends she’s making and how she’s adjusting to campus life.
On the other hand, I feel as though I’m on a roller coaster of emotions. One minute, I’m thrilled for her, like when we’re out shopping for her dorm room. And then, I have a momentary lapse into grief, this overwhelming sense of panic that she’s really leaving the nest. I realize that my role as a mom is naturally diminishing. I remind myself that she is so very excited about going away to college. I think about how fun it will be starting the next chapter of her life.
One of the most significant things that being a mom has taught me is how to deeply connect to another human being. I’ve always had difficulty connecting with others, especially as a very young child and teenager. I was once told that I was ‘aloof’ and that no one ever seemed to be able to get close to me. Those words stung, and at that time in my life, I truly was unable to communicate and express my innermost thoughts and feelings. Heck, half the time, I didn’t know what I was feeling, except perhaps fear and panic. But, I was not able to put those emotions into words. Instead, my inability to express often incited anger and frustration from others. Of course, that only exacerbated feelings of fear and panic. I had a very hard time trusting other people in my life and often believed they did not have my back. My daughter and I have a very close and special relationship, so saying good-bye is going to be especially hard. She in turn has been grieving the loss of her friends, who she claims are the best friends in the world. I have such fond memories of our daughter and her good friend, Sophia, dancing at many a competition. Sophia’s mom and I lamented the strict rehearsal schedule and all the crazy driving back and forth between rehearsals and competitions. Despite that craziness, I loved it. Our daughter worries whether she’ll be able to find friends as amazing and supportive as the ones she’s had over the past couple of years in high school. I have no doubt that she’ll make new friends in college and will simply expand the circle. But she understands that things change when you go away and are moving in different directions.
Being a parent has been the one thing I think I’ve done most successfully (not that it’s completely over yet). Parenting has taught me so much. It’s increased my intuition and ability to get past the superficial to develop more meaningful relationships with others. It’s made me wiser and more empathetic. It’s made me appreciative of my own mother, my adoptive mother, who I had an extremely turbulent relationship with. I learned to forgive my mother and realized that despite her shortcomings, she loved me and was parenting the only way she knew how. Being a mom has brought more joy than I could ever express in words. I’m grateful that my daughter and I have shared such an intimate relationship and that it’s markedly different than the relationship I had with my adoptive mom. It’s scary how alike my daughter and I are in our interests and opinions. It’s also scary how I’ve passed down to her some of my most negative attributes. She is her own person, however. Strong, independent, and kind.
As I move forward into the next phase of my life as an empty-nester, there are many things I hope to accomplish. We are experiencing much change, so much that it makes my head swim (moving, starting another new job). I have had hopes for a long time to visit two other adult adoptees who were adopted from the same orphanage in Taipei. One lives in Kentucky and the other out East. Unfortunately, my plans always get sidetracked for one reason or another. One day I will make it happen. I want to go back to Taipei and visit my birthfamily. This, too, is always sidetracked. I’ve tossed around the idea of writing some kind of book about my adoption/reunion with my birthfamily. So many adoptees have done this, however, and I don’t want to just write another memoir or book on international adoption. These days, videos and podcasts featuring adoptees are becoming increasingly popular. I feel that I’m too old to start something like that, but perhaps I have the wrong perspective. I have a dream to work in orphan care, but not the kind you think. My hope is that one day, there will be no orphanages and that children will be fostered or adopted within their own countries. There is much work to be done on this front.
For now, it’s time to send our daughter off to college. Wow, it’s been the adventure of a lifetime raising our daughter. So many memories of the past 18 years come flooding back. Some say it gets better as time goes on. Others disagree. I tend to think that it really depends on the individual parent and their own internal process. Those first few months are gonna be tough. There is no doubt about that. I am so proud of the woman my daughter is and is yet to become. And now, California here we come…