A week from tonight will be the first night in eighteen years that one of my children no longer lives in my home. I know it sounds all dramatic when I write it that way, but that’s because I feel all kinds of dramatic right now. I am mostly trying to play it cool and pick out dorm furnishings, but on the inside (and also the outside) I am a mess.
I’m a mom of five. Maybe my identity is too wrapped up in that fact. But that’s because being their mom is the only thing I’ve ever been good at. I am a self proclaimed quitter. I have fifty books that are only half read, I’ve started several exercise programs and never finished one of them. I start projects and abandon them. I see you, counted cross stitch under the bed!
But I have held on to motherhood with every fiber of my being. I’ve prayed, cried, loved, held, nursed, and bled for every one of these children. They are my life’s work, my symphony. And I am happiest when they are together. “He will come home from college often,” they say. But I know the truth, he will be different. He will inhale the breath of freedom and he will begin to plan, dream, and adventure. It will never be the same. If the Fab Five was a band, they would be playing their final show together.
And this kind of over processing is what landed me in Keith’s chair at the local tattoo establishment.
I’m a visual gal. I needed something visual to serve as a reminder that my Fab Five would always be a thing…even if it was only on my skin.
I grabbed one of my coworkers to accompany me, because I’m brave, but also I’m a wimp. And in the parking lot of my workplace, which happens to be a church, we grabbed our pastor’s wife and took her with us. That sounds like the beginning of a really weird joke. Three church ladies walk into a tattoo parlor…
My artist, Keith, is a kind soul. We chatted about family and life. I described the tattoo I was hoping for. He listened with the honest interest of someone that cared about this “bird lady” <—- His words, and the bird lady’s midlife crisis. Never mind the fact that he was probably throwing down a whole back tattoo after my appointment. He took me seriously and he was incredibly sweet.
And when it was finished, I gazed at my new seriously permanent symbol. I like it. It is a beautiful reminder of the fact that my babies will leave my home, but they will never stop being my children. The birds, representing each of my five children, are flying away from my heart and into the world. Their position is important. I must hold out my hand and let them go. But they are also flying in a line. Each bird watches the one in front of it. They are spaced far enough apart to give wing space, but close enough that they can follow. And if you know my children, you know this is my hope. My firstborn has made me so grateful that Jesus showed up to parent. I could write a book about what an inconsistent anxious mess I was while raising him. But I prayed A TON, and I tried to teach him to love God and love others. And if you know Z, you know that he’s got that on lockdown.
I’m so filled with gratitude for the things I’ve learned from this amazing human that I call, son. I will most definitely cry next week. Each tear will represent the love and pride I feel at watching my bird fly. But I am also grateful for my church girl, tattoo trip friends that convinced me to stick with the birds. “Maybe I should get tattoos of tears to represent all the ones I’ve cried during this transition,” I said. And that is when the hip girls told me a thing about prison that I had forgotten. Phew!
Stay tuned for the misadventures of moving Z into his college dorm, conveniently titled, “I’m not crying, you’re crying!”