My duties are finished, so why do I feel I overlooked a few major details when the hourglass revealed my time was up? I’m shaky regarding my accomplishments as a mother over the past eighteen years. Maybe it’s because my interracial daughter is demonstrating I wasn’t needed any longer in the role of a nurturing mother. She severed the umbilical cord between us and I’m experiencing withdrawal pangs. Though I realize it’s indeed time to sever the umbilical cord, I’m still experiencing fears regarding my future role in my daughter’s life.
When my beautiful daughter was born I adapted to the drastic changes in my life. I had no qualms towards the long nights I had to pace floors, listening to her demanding wails due to hunger or gas pains. I gave in to her need to be cuddled. I learned various ways to cradle her, the best speed to rock and lull her into a comfortable sleep. Still there were times when I experienced total exhaustion and selfishly sobbed, “I can’t wait until you grow up. Stop being so needy!”
My daughter and her needs may have caused me minor body aches. I had a bad case of cradle elbow from lifting and carrying her, especially since I suffered with rheumatoid arthritis. But I didn’t care. I encouraged her to walk, holding her off the floor by gripping her little fingers in my own somewhat stronger hands, chancing one baby step at a time. I cheered and cautiously watched as she toddled, stumbled and fell, but crawled right over to the sofa to pull herself right back up and step off once again. I’d brush tiny tears from her eyes and kiss pain away from her bruised knees that only healed with a mother’s kiss. Eventually my daughter was running faster than my arms could stretch, and I’d call out, “Slow down. Wait for Mommy. Please.”
During her elementary years, my, “hair pulling,” days, there were plenty of times her needs and her endless questions overwhelmed me. I’d scream, losing my patience. “Why don’t you grow up already?” I never realized the day would arrive when she would eventually indeed grow up. Nor did I realize I wouldn’t be ready to relinquish my nurturing role, severing that umbilical cord.
With mixed emotions I released my daughter into a cold foreign setting to begin her freshman college year. She’d be far away from the relatively safe haven of home. I was the one who’d have to endure a bigger adjustment period.
I prayed I prepared her enough to retain her individuality in a world that’ll constantly challenge and question her identity. My daughter developed into a young lady who embraced both her Italian and African-American heritage. On the majority of legal documents she was considered to be of black descent but she refused to check one box, defiantly writing in her full heritage.
When she was younger I worried whether she’d ever experience an identity crisis, or have trouble fitting in with peers. She managed to select her playmates quite well, always surrounding herself with an abundance of friends. In fact she assumed the role of being the decisive leader, the ring leader.
During her teens I was frantic when she wanted to date, not only because she was delving into a foreign world of strange male species, but because these males had parents. I worried whether their parents would accept my daughter dating their sons. I wondered if I would accept her dating out of her mixed race or religion, though I considered myself to be a non-prejudicial person.
My questions were quickly thrust from my hands. Through the years I greeted a rainbow of males crossing my threshold, uttering unique interpretations and dialects of my daughter’s given name. There were only normal hormonal teen situations that come along with learning to deal with the opposite sex.
During my daughter’s last few weeks at home before she left for college, I still attempted to maintain control. I instructed her to sort through things, start packing, get off the phone, eat or stop eating, come home early, go to bed or get up. She’d groan, “Mom, I can handle it by now. What are you going to do when I’m away at college? If I don’t get it done, then it’ll be my tough luck.” During her last week home, she teased, “You only have seven more days to be my dictator.” And each succeeding day that came, I crossed off my own count down calendar. Of course she managed to complete everything in time.
On moving in day at the college I stood in her dorm room holding back my tears, watching my daughter as she scurried around unpacking her things, setting up her new home in her own unique style, and greeting her roommate with a generous hug..
I allowed her that freedom, or should I say I had no voice over it? She was acting quite independent, just like I intended to raise her. No wonder parent college guide’s advise that parents leave as soon as possible, because the umbilical cord wrenching is utterly agonizing. I could read other mother’s faces, fully aware they were experiencing the same stage of labor, with the birth of adult children. Racial identity doesn’t matter when it comes to a mother facing this challenge.
My daughter was prepared to take this step with a greater confidence than I had when I first brought her into this world. This was my baby girl, and almost overnight someone substituted a young woman in her place.
We had shared many open conversations because I chose to be the, “Come to me with any problems,” mother, which sometimes backfired when I learned more information than I cared to know. Still I felt privileged to experience such a close mother-daughter relationship.
I proudly admit that she inherited my writing talent, with hers being more upfront in baring her soul. I also patted myself on the back when she received a four year college scholarship. Maybe it was my nagging, “Did you study? Is your homework done? Forget about those boys!” Of course she swore she completed all the gritty work herself to be an honor student.
Now my daughter was ready to fly from the nest, even though I wanted to peer over the nest and whisper, “You really don’t have to fly yet. It’s so dark and so lonely, far down there.” But my, “baby bird,” fluttered her wings and took off, soaring into the golden sunset. Nature sets a few cruel stages of motherhood, but there are also many rewarding ones.
Her last summer home, my daughter spent the majority of time with friends. “Mom, you’ll always be here but I’ll never see some of them again.” So I waited, pacing until I heard her car arrive safely home. I’d slip into bed feigning sleep so she wouldn’t know I was acting like a nervous mother. I paced plenty of floors when she was a baby crying for no plausible reason. Those newborn days seemed like only yesterday, but now I was the one crying for no plausible reason, except for the fact my daughter was now an adult.
I had no choice but to accept my shifting role as her mother, allowing my daughter to experience college life as an independent young woman. I did the best job I could raising her, though I’ll always be waiting for a phone call, text, or e-mail to verify this fact.
Our mother-daughter relationship continues to evolve, but I joyously report there are still daily calls or text messages, sometimes asking to refill her school charge card. Still in all, it’s great, and I’m adjusting to the strange phantom sensation of my severed umbilical cord. I still have two more sons to let fly out of the nest, their umbilical cords are tugging as I speak.