I Believe Raising Children is the Best Work I’ve Ever Done

Gail - Houston, Texas
Entered on November 21, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood

I believe that raising children is the best work I’ve ever done.

I’ve been a fundraising events coordinator. I’ve co-written a book whose sales sponsor children’s education in Nigeria. I’ve even taught birthing couples to bring their own legacy safely into this world. Still, mothering my four children to be morally-equipped, contributing beings that will replace me on this planet is my enduring pledge to it.

The hard part? Letting them go.

As parents, we pack their cars. We stand and wave until they’re out of sight. And in time, we watch them make their lives with other people.

At such a time, joy should reign—and does because we love them—but we can also ache. I had such a day…a week…no, a month before I surrendered my oldest son to another woman in marriage. I found it wrenching, even though earnest love is what parents pray for their children.

Our son and his bride live in Florida, and we don’t, so on their first Thanksgiving, my husband and I visited them. I smiled, noticing their freshly painted apartment as we scooted metal chairs up to a folding table. I thought back to our first place with its brown shag carpeting, and my eyes brimmed.

I longed to apologize to my mother for striding away on my wedding day without a backward glance. And so often since then. Ah, I see now devoted mothers just smile with wet eyes, so no one is the wiser.

At the holiday’s end, I said goodbye to my son, as I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life. I looked into this tall man’s gold-flecked eyes and was as filled with wonder as the day I birthed him. I touched the hair escaping his collared shirt and with a sudden thrill, announced to him and every passerby, “I made you! You are one of the best things I’ve ever done.” It’s hard to explain such vain pleasure, except to another parent.

We champion our child’s graduation from reading about dinosaurs to waxing cynical politics. But their joining us as contemporaries is the double-kiss hello and goodbye. They become an entry in our address book instead of puffing a sleeping breath on our face as we steal one more kiss. I know why parents cry at airports and celebrations, because that’s my job now. But I also comprehend the longing parents feel for their own to create a tender being, to begin this cycle anew…

My son is finishing his doctorate, studying climate change over eons. See what I started? Yet, I believe raising a child one day would be his best work.