Motherhood: The Hen or the Egg?

When I think of Mother’s Day, my thoughts immediately go to my children and to my mother, Mercedes, who died in 1992 at my present age. I think of my grandmother, Eloina, now passed on, and her mother, Amancia, who died tragically when my grandmother was the tender age of nine—for without the long lineage of amazing and beautiful Puerto Rican and Canarian women before me, my children wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be a mother. Of course, my father, the men in my family, and my ex-husband played a big role, as well. But, since today is Mother’s Day, I’ll stay on the subject of motherhood and children.

matthew's 21st bdayOn Mother’s Day, I don’t immediately think of receiving gifts, cards, and flowers from my kids. I don’t wait for invitations to brunch, and I would certainly understand if my children couldn’t call me on this day. I don’t guilt them into remembering me one day out of the year; they remember me well every day of the year…but I am happy when they do.

They’ve never missed sharing Mother’s Day with me in some special way, and I wonder to what extent my heart would ache if they did forget? Knowing myself well, my heart would be heavy, but I would never doubt their love for me. Never. Their actions and behavior during the year and over the years, have taught me actions will always speak louder than words. Was I always this way? Quasi-wise? Are you kidding? No, definitely not. I had to learn…the hard way.

If you were to ask my children to describe what it was like growing up with me, they’d probably say I was strict, over-protective, physically demonstrative, fun, sometimes clueless, funny, and always loving. They know I am their biggest cheerleader, always will be, and they’ve given me much to celebrate and be proud of. When my kids were in their twenties, I had a hard time letting go of them, which stemmed from my naive expectations that their childhood would resemble mine.

I realized that as much as I wished my children could experience what I’d experienced growing up with my mother, my grandmother, and the women of my family—we weren’t living in the 1960’s, and memories are not to be repeated. Some traditions, though wonderful, aren’t meant to last. Instead, for me, memories and traditions are to be treasured, kept safe, and are easily accessible to keep me warm and smiling. It was not our destiny to gather at my house for every single holiday and for many important life events. My kids and I wouldn’t spend every summer together at my river place. None of those things would happen very often because I taught my kids to be independent, free thinkers, and adventurous. I showed them, and marrying an Army officer helped, that the world is a wonderful place to be explored and embraced—we traveled and lived abroad for most of my children’s lives.

IMG_3290Motherhood in my late twenties taught me to capture and nurture my children’s hearts and minds, to keep them safe, and hopefully teach them important life lessons. I know I missed some.

But as it turned out, my adult children taught me how to parent adult children—you don’t try. I learned how to release them in love when it was time. Release seems like a strong word, a word that conjures up thoughts for me of simple traps, nests, holding fledgling birds to the sun and the wind, and releasing them in an open field, knowing they are ready to fly into the great unknown with an arsenal of lessons and information. And that’s exactly what it felt like. They know I will always be there for them.

I soon found out (because it all goes so fast) that parenting children and parenting young adults is drastically different—I will always be their mother, but I can no longer parent—they stand on firm ground and have done so for many years. My children taught me as much as I’ve taught them, and no, I didn’t know it was time to let go when it arrived. As it turned out, I was the one who flew the nest first. I left the Washington, DC area in 2011 when my kids were working and building lives in Northern Virginia. They were settled and happy, growing strong roots when I decided it was time for me to move where I could afford to live and write full time. It was a tough decision, and despite their immediate concern and hurt feelings, I knew the time had come for me to leave the nest to ultimately allow my children to spread their wings and soar.

IMG_4576Four years on, my son moved back to Europe. He lives and works in the Netherlands. He’s never been happier or more productive. My daughter pursued her Masters degree and left a long-term relationship that could never nurture or protect her like she deserved. She’s never been happier or more productive. Me? I’m proud of my children. Loving and supporting my children from afar is enough, and when we come together like today on Skype—it’s magic. We shared a special time on Skype and I am happy.

Do I still give my kids advice, offer suggestions, and try to show them a better way to do things? Are you kidding? Of course, I do! Only now, I stop myself mid-sentence and grin like a Cheshire cat. A smile says, “Oh, yeah. You got this.”

About EleanorParker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon

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