“There is an enduring tenderness in the love of a mother to a son, that transcends all other affections of the heart.” -Washington Irving
You’ll forgive me that it’s taken me over three months to write about my eldest son’s wedding. You see, I’ve been busy and life has been busy and … OK, the truth is, as much as I have to say, as much as that day was beautiful and wonderful and so blessed, it was also another step in a direction that is hard for this mommy heart to handle.
I gave my son to another woman.
I think there is a special bond that a mother shares with her sons, and for much of their growing up, they depend on you. You are the one and only woman in their life, and they call upon you for everything from, “What temperature should I keep my thermostat set to?” to “I got into the police academy!”
And then one day they say, “I met her. She’s the one I’m going to marry!”
You feel a mixture of emotions: joy, fear, anxiety, blessed, etc.
You say things to yourself like, “Oh, I’m so thankful he found his partner in life” and “I hope she feels the same way about him” and “Don’t take my son from me!”
Because once she arrives, you are no longer number one. As it should be, of course, but what should be and how it feels isn’t always in sync with each other.
I could not be happier with my son’s choice. She is an amazingly talented and beautiful and funny and warm girl (and our birthdays are just one day apart). She makes my son happy and she makes me cupcakes (and when I allow myself treats, it will be her baked goods that I wait for, not some random store donuts), so I’ve won in the daughter-in-love department for sure.
But she is also number one in his life now, and that means she comes first (again, as it should be), which means our relationship – mine and his – has changed. And it changed for good the moment he and I walked down the aisle and I hugged him and let him go.The pictures of the day give it away, if you really look. I’m holding onto my son as hard as I can, touching him as often as possible. Oh sure, I’m happy and full of pride and joy, but I’m also grasping at the last seconds before he is truly another woman’s. This man was once a tiny baby boy who I carried in my body, who I rocked through long nights, and sang to through long days. We have “spent time” and told stories and moved up the coast and back down the coast, just me and him, and we have been through thick and thin, growing up together in many ways, and I couldn’t be more proud of who he is – and even who I am now. But the letting go, which we knew would happen, it wasn’t easy.
It still isn’t easy.
This kid moved out at a young age, independent from day one. By the age of 22, he already had his ducks in a row and was on his way to the altar with the woman of his dreams. I can only look on and beam with pride at who he has grown up to be, and I know I played my part, but he gets the credit for being as amazing as he is, and I know without a doubt he will be a wonderful husband.
But I wasn’t ready. Maybe I never will be. It takes great restraint not to tackle each of my children when I see them, hold onto them, hold them close, but they don’t need that from me anymore. I raised them with wings to fly, and now they soar. This one took flight first, leading the way, and I stand precariously between absolute joy and abject loneliness for the sounds of yesterday. We look on at them when they are small and can’t wait to see who they grow up to be, and then when they get there, we just wish we could turn back the clocks, stuff these grownup people back into small bodies. But time marches on, and then marches right down the aisle.
And I gave him away.When we walked down the aisle together, I nervously gave him a pep talk about being good to her, to hear her, to respect her, and on and on. What I really wanted to say is, “Don’t go! Come home! Be my little baby again! Mommy’s boy! Please don’t go!” The heart is often conflicted, and the good certainly outweighs the sadness – I’m not losing a son, I’m gaining a daughter! – but rationality does not care to weigh in. A mother’s heart wants to just hold on…just one more minute, just one more second.
I let go, though. I broke the long hug at the end of the aisle and pushed him toward his spot, and then I told him to close his eyes so he wouldn’t see her until she was close, until she was directly coming to him, to marry him, and I beamed with joy, and I choked back tears as he let out a small yelp when he did see her, and then I breathed in slowly and watched him go as I took my place behind her.
As he said “I do,” I held my breath. That was the moment. He and she, now one, and we, all now family. Not gone, no, but different. All beautiful — beautifully hard. Because a son and a mother have a bond like no other. It is because of this bond that I let go so he could step forward and become a husband, so he could begin the next phase of his life. And it is all things amazing and wonderful, and I truly love my new daughter more than I could express, but it’s a feeling I never could have imagined. Letting go doesn’t get any easier. From the first day in that delivery room to the walk down the aisle, he carries a piece of my heart with him always.
The heart holds on still, regardless of the ring on his finger.