I just wanted to go into the garage for a sec and put something in the recycling bin, but my kids wanted none of it. Just toddlers, they followed me to the door and as it shut, they cried and banged on it, as if I’d just left for six months at sea. Seconds later, I opened the door back up to find them in hysterics.
“I’m really not that great,” I announced, as they collapsed into my khakis, runny noses and all.
My mother-in-law found this phase of childhood wonderful.
“They need you,” she cooed, as though there was nothing better than being needed so much, you can’t go stick an empty cat food can in the recycling bin without a hero’s welcome upon your return. I, on the other hand, wondered how I’d ever get them ready to leave home if I couldn’t even leave home for three seconds.
But when they are so very little, the thought of separating from them makes your heart ache. It’s as though their hearts are tied to yours, and the farther apart you get, the more the rope squeezes tight. That’s why pre-school drop off sometimes felt like the dock to the Titanic. And it’s why they couldn’t bear to lose me to the garage, even for a moment.
Now that they’re teenagers, I could go stand in the garage for an hour, and no one would notice. They might text me to ask where the XBox controller is, but they don’t need me so much. As it should be. The rope around our hearts is much longer now — this week, 3,000 miles-long, as I am on a business trip in Seattle. Now and then it squeezes tight, but for the most part, we are getting along just fine so far apart.
In a few years, they will be the ones to leave me, and if I’ve done my job right, they will be ready to go. They’ll have what they need inside to get along outside, no matter how far from home they go. Yet I reserve the right to stand by the door to the garage a moment longer as the rope between our hearts lets out. That first tug is sure gonna hurt.