I wrote this post at the beginning of this year, but was really too depressed to share it. Since I now find myself in a much better emotional space, I decided to hit "Publish"
Do you know how we are often meant to be comforted by the message that every ending spells a new beginning? Well, on a cognitive level, I can see the sense in that. I can see how it should bring renewed optimism to a person dealing with difficult endings to life events, like divorce or being fired from a job etc.
On an emotional level, however, I am struggling to internalise that message.
I have always been a real cry-baby. I cried more than my children did when each of them started school. I cried the first time I sent my baby boy (now 18-year old young man, Shakeel) to my mother-in-law for a few hours so that I could study. I cried when we moved house. And when we sold our first real car (containing so many memories of my first 2 children).
Thus, needless to say, I have been dreading the day my first child leaves school. I dreaded all the ceremonious events leading up to the final day. "That's normal," you're probably thinking."Many parents get really emotional when thinking of this sad time." I, however, first started getting teary about it when I used to watch him sleep as a little boy. I'd picture him matriculating, graduating and then getting married - all prospects which made me bawl like a deranged baby.
And then that period arrived. As expected, the sadness weighed heavily on me. But, in accordance with my son's instructions/pleas, I did not cry. I cry too much, I realised. You are modelling weakness to your daughters, I scolded myself. So the valedictory assembly, the last day of school, the matric exams and the celebration surrounding matric results all came and went - and I did not cry. Other emotionally challenging events also presented themselves during the past few months, but my tears seem to have dried up. Instead, a heavy sadness weighs in my chest. The heaviness slows me down to the point of inertia. Everything feels like an effort.
A few days ago the new school year started. Shakeel was accepted to study B.Sc (Biodiversity and Conservation Management). I am relieved that he is about to start working toward his dream career. As a little boy, he was obsessed with animals. This did not change as he got older. We excitedly encouraged him. I fantasised alongside him about the life he could have working in this exciting field. Now, this dream is becoming tangible - and it leaves me with a sense of loss. For me it signals the impending end of our dreaming phase - and the beginning of him embarking on this actual journey alone.
Tharaa (16) is now in Grade 11. I must admit, that she is the only one of my children whose present phase in life does not cause me sadness. She has two years to go (including the present year) before the end of high school. Apart from being a bit grumpy at times, she is a level-headed child. She often acts as my voice of reason. She is intuitive - she sees that something is off about me. She lectures, counsels and comforts. I tell her that she should not concern herself with me - it's not her role to comfort me. But she does it anyway. And, I'm ashamed to admit, eventually I let her. Two days ago she got contact lenses. Seeing her without her thick glasses made my heart lurch with fear. She looked so grown up. What if she changes? What if she starts to become aware of her looks and becomes like the typical teenagers at whose drama she usually rolls her eyes? What if I lose my little girl?
Nuha (13) just started high school. She has always been quite independent of me and most of her primary school classmates are attending the same high school, so I wasn't expecting the same level of drama and fear that I'd experienced with the older two. Needless to say, when I saw her in her uniform I felt as if my heart was being crushed in my chest. Memories of her as a little girl pierced through me.
Last year I'd drop the high-schoolers (Shakeel and Tharaa) off first in the mornings after which I'd drop off the other two (Nuha and Aisha). Yesterday (the first morning of school), I felt the excruciating change. Shakeel remained sleeping (university only starts next month) while I took the girls to school. As usual, I headed to the high school first. As Tharaa and Nuha stepped out of the car and walked toward the school, my heart burst with mixture of pride and sadness - pride at my big smiling girls walking together, the older sister supporting the younger on her first day; and sadness at the fact that Nuha was no longer at primary school, as well as at Shakeel's absence. The pain in my chest almost gave way to tears as Aisha (8) sat alone on the back seat as we headed off to the primary school. No more Nuha to nag Aisha to finish brushing her hair, or to scold her for making them late as the primary school starts 5 minutes earlier than the high school. No more banter between the two girls, no more Nuha to remind Aisha of the day's school events, no more ...no more ... no more ....
I feel bad that I am unable to enjoy their new beginnings. I put on the best possible act that I can. I feel bad that I forgot to take pictures of Nuha's first morning in uniform, which we customarily do before heading out. Instead, I got them to do it after school - I hope she doesn't read too much into my omission.
I feel guilty for feeling this way. I have so much for which to be grateful, Algamdulillah. I feel unappreciative. I feel as if, in the past, crying had given me the release I'd needed so that I could face life with a lighter burden - and stronger. Not crying might be making me look stronger, but I have never felt this weak. The weight in my chest leaves me unable to function. But I'm afraid that if I start to cry, I will struggle to stop.
I cannot wait for the kids to come home from school and for some normalcy to return. Change is difficult for me.