I read a moving article yesterday written by a man who had recently dropped off his son at college. There was a particular part that got to me—something about how parenthood is like being a secondary character in someone else’s story, and that it doesn’t matter because being a parent is enough of a reward. I related to this, and so I cried—partly, I admit, because it implies that my part of the story, the part when I am the central character, is over. I’ve been feeling this more and more the older I get.
I tried to remind myself that there’s plenty more to do. I half felt it. The world belongs to younger generations. Movies I grew up with are now being remade. Our fashions have made the full cycle to being back in style. I might be on top of the hill right now, but that’s just because I’m about to go over it. Many days, I’d much rather still be climbing up. I’m even a little jealous of my son, who is just planting a foot at the base of the mighty hill. He has so much to look forward to.
Today was my son’s first day of kindergarten. I cried a bit before we left to walk to school and worried my son, who’d been quite fine until he saw tears streaming down his mother’s face. I assured him I wasn’t sending him anywhere evil.
I wasn’t crying because I thought he’d be scared. I wasn’t crying because I was worried he won’t like it. I wasn’t crying, even, because it was the First Big Goodbye. I was crying because motherhood is like having an open wound that anyone walking by can poke, and sending my son to school is like asking for the wound to be stabbed with serrated knives. Maybe not that bad. But close.
I did not cry at the school. I kept it together like a She-Woman for the sake of my little one, since I’d already horrified him. (Though I almost lost it when a neighbor put a hand on my shoulder and asked, “Crying yet?”)
When I picked him up after school he smiled, like I knew he would, and said, “That was really fun.” Any sadness I had this morning whisked away.
And when I got home, an email was waiting for me. One of the authors I’d asked to write a blurb about my book had responded with a very nice note (which you’ll be seeing on the back cover when the book comes out).
I felt very much on top of the hill. And it reminded me that we’re all secondary characters in someone else’s story. Whether we’re central to our own story is up to us.