Thursday, August 14, 2014

What I Learned About Myself When My Daughter Moved Away

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was another monotonous drive home from the cube farm when my cell phone’s Darth Vader ringtone announced an incoming call from my oldest daughter. Mother’s intuition kicked in and I knew something was up if Maricelle was calling me at that time since she works the graveyard shift.

Ten minutes into our conversation that familiar ache in my stomach settled in. She told me she was planning on moving to New York toward the end of next year. While my mouth expressed excitement for her decision my heart held the mixed emotions I needed to process after I hung up. I had to remind myself that she is 26 years old, an independent woman working as a R.N. in La Jolla VA Hospital and not the six-year-old child I once knew.

That conversation happened last year in December and Maricelle had no idea how much I struggled with it. Ray and my sister were the ones who bore the brunt of my unrest. I went so far as to plead with them to pray that she changed her mind.

It was during my prayer times a few months ago when God pretty much bitch slapped me with some knowledge. I sat there sending earnest pleas upwards truly believing God had my back on this. But in the stillness I heard a gentle She is not yours. She is mine. Is this about her or you?

Well. Damn.

It’s never a warm or fuzzy feeling accepting my selfishness in these prayers for my child. It was totally about me, and how I was projecting my fear of the unknown onto her.

Who was I to hold her back from living her life of adventure just because it didn’t fit in with MY vision for her? Wasn’t I the one, who at 18 years old, dreamt of living in New York as a photojournalist but was shot down by my own fearful parents?

It wasn’t until this past June when Maricelle was interviewing for jobs in New York that I finally confessed my internal struggle. The phone couldn’t contain her excitement at being in the big city experiencing subways and taxis and all the cool things that make New York so enthralling. She started off with how much she appreciated my support all these months, how surprised she was at how well I’ve taken her decision, and grateful for everything I’ve taught her.

Ummm...well I have a confession to make, I said. And she laughed. But that’s what I love about my relationship with her and how we could be transparent in our vulnerability. 

I knew she’d be more than okay in New York. She has always gone after what she wanted and made it happen. Last year she traveled solo to Spain and trekked the Camino de Santiago

When she was five years old I didn’t want her to learn to ride a bike knowing she and her siblings would go off without my supervision. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window and saw her cruise by on her bike sans training wheels. The little stinker taught herself and I knew then the force was strong in this one. 

I refused to be a typical Filipino parent pushing healthcare as a career down my kids’ throats. But Maricelle knew in her heart that she was meant to be a nurse and I watched her make that dream a reality as soon as she graduated from high school. Ever since she recognized her gifts at a young age she's managed to use them in her nursing duties. 

Although I had several months to prepare for Maricelle’s move it wasn’t until last month when we spent time in La Jolla helping her pack her things that the realization crystallized into razor sharp truths lacerating my insides. I cried intermittently during the hour and a half ride home. Ray’s attempts at comfort were met with exasperation. Those who know me well know I HATE crying but I seem to do a lot of that in my old middle age.

The last three weekends I had left with Maricelle taught me a lot about myself and of parenthood.

I learned no matter how many quotes we tweet on how short life is we still manage to take our loved ones for granted. Busy schedules, mundane routines, and obsessing over to-do lists are obstacles to living fully present with the people who matter.

I learned that letting go sucks hard. Yes, I could pretend that I’m a badass mom who is equipped at accepting my kids growing up but what for? I’m not fooling anyone. Letting go sucks and saying goodbye sucks.

I learned that children are not ours to keep but have been entrusted with us to help them navigate this world the best way we know how. Sure we’ll F up many times but having faith and doing our best to help them grow into responsible adults can be rewarding.

I learned that my happiness shouldn’t be projected onto my child. Genuine happiness comes from observing my daughter seek out her dreams and live the life she wants regardless of how it strays from society’s norms. I don’t want her living the “safe” life. Too many unhappy people paralyzed by fear, afraid to take a step out of their comfort zones, surround me.  

I learned that my child possesses a true servant’s heart that I strive for every day. She doesn’t think about serving, she does it in a capacity we all should in the way we treat others. She serves not just her patients but also her coworkers and the personnel most people disregard. (I’ll talk more about this in my next blog post.)

I learned that children do listen to your words of wisdom despite the eye rolls and long frustrated sighs. Maricelle’s quest for perfectionism was sometimes her downfall. During her six years in college I received many phone calls when she had her meltdowns. In my own words that echoed Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words above, I’d tell her, “Be yourself, it’s okay if you screw up. You’re not perfect. Accept your flaws and just be yourself.”

Today is her third day in New York and judging by the texts and pictures she’s sent me I know she’s in the right place at the right time. Knowing Maricelle, she'll make this new journey of hers a story worth living. I cannot wait to visit her and New York once again! 

Maricelle's send off by her coworkers
at La Jolla VA
(excuse the blurry iPhone photo)

Today's Throwback Thursday 
Maricelle enjoying Central Park today