The air was filled with laughter and the rustle of satin. Every once in awhile you’d catch a whiff of Tigi hair products mixed with men’s cologne applied with a heavy hand. Young men and women were dressed in tuxedos and long flowing dresses, baring midriffs and backs, matching flowers and ties. The sights, sounds and smells were dizzying, drawing everyone into the fold.
It was Prom Night 2010 in North Texas and I was snapping photos of the 20+ high school seniors. This was my oldest son’s prom night and we were meeting at his classmate’s home complete with a long winding staircase in the grand entrance. It was the perfect setting for photographs that would tell this story through time.
Just underneath the energy and happiness was where I found myself, in my own swirl of emotion. To the kids this was a transition from high school senior to high school graduate. What I hadn’t realized was this night marked a transition for me as well and I was scrambling to soak in every minute of what seemed to be more of an ending than a beginning.
This was how I spent the remainder of 2010 and well into 2011: with the excitement for all that the future held for my oldest child followed by heartbreaking fear and regret that would shake me to my very core. That woman crying in Target while shopping for towels? That was me as I chose the fluffiest towels for my son’s first year at college. The care-packages crammed with goodies of support that cost more to ship than the actual contents? Yes, that was me too. That crazy lady frantically looking for her ringing cell phone hoping it wasn’t bad news? Yep.
Basically, I was a mess trying to hide the fact that I was a mess. This was not just about my 18 year old son but also his brothers who were coming quickly behind him. It was what I now recognize as my unraveling.
What I’ve realized as I transitioned from a mom of an 18-year old boy who still needed me in 2010 into a mom of a young adult who needs me less and less and now lives 36 driving hours away in 2016, is that the fear and sadness were not only about him (or them) flying the nest. These feelings were also largely about me: who I was as a person and as a mom with children who didn’t need her any longer.
These feelings were my grief, my regret, my fear, my not feeling worthy and my not knowing who I was without the responsibility of caring for my children. Even today, these emotions can still be near the surface as I have tears falling my keyboard as I type this.
In hindsight, I could never have known that this time would lead to a positive outcome. Where I am now as a life coach and working with many clients at similar crossroads was because of this journey. The growth I’ve made and fears I’ve embraced started at this point six years ago. As with most things in our lives, they usually start at a desperate time of needing and wanting change.
It’s April again and and prom pictures are being shared across my Facebook news feed. I send loving thoughts to my friends, knowing full well the mix of emotions they may be feeling. I’m able to embrace them and ask them about feelings they may feel alone in. I remember that feeling of being alone.
And seeing these new prom pictures with smiling faces beaming, I’m whisked back six years ago to taking pictures of my handsome son looking so grownup in his white dinner jacket. He kissed me on the cheek to say goodbye and just before he ducked into the waiting limo, he stops, smiles and waves. He knows this moment represents something more even if he doesn’t have the words for it.
And with tears in my eyes, I wave back as I see the same smile that is reflected in photographs of other firsts and beginnings. In my heart, I know we will both be okay but in that moment, I wish I could go back to 1992 and do it all over again.
P.S. I’m sending love to the parents of high school seniors. I know this is a time of mixed emotions. All I can offer is understanding and support. I’m here if you need someone to talk to. I still have some free birthday celebration sessions available. I’d love to walk with you through this >> https://lizapplegate.satoriapp.com/offers/74605-birthday-celebration-60-minute-no-pitch-session-complimentary