On Mother's Day I put my arms around my daughter. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years. It had been so long I could barely remember how amazing and unique that simple gesture feels. Sure, I hug friends, even strangers, and I get it, hugging is a good thing. But to put your arms around your own daughter is like no other feeling, except perhaps putting your arms around your own son! Then again, sons hug differently. They aren't as melty as girls. They hug with either too much manly gusto, or they keep back a bit so as to not breach the invisible force field that separates close from too close.
My arms fit around my daughter like I had the arms of ElastiGirl. It was Incredible. I felt like I could pass my flesh and bones through her flesh and bones, and back out again. The wave of emotion I felt surprised me, though, when I realized it was guilt. I had let too much time pass between us. I should have flown to London when she lived there. I should have flown to NY to see her new place. I should have toasted her 21st birthday with her. Sure, she said I didn't need to do any of those things, but I should not have listened. I should have made those efforts anyway. As her mother, it was my place to "be there for her." Even though that expression is too-much-used, it bears a simple truth, I should have been there for her. I did the wrong thing by listening to the words and missing the message.
She's in the hardest part of life...the twenties. She will not know it is the hardest part until she's well past it. Right now she is under the impression it is the best part. She's free, self-supporting, independent. This is how a prisoner feels when his head pops out of the tunnel he's dug under the fence. He runs for the shelter of the forest, finds a ripe berry patch and a spring to drink from, hitches a ride to the next town. He gets hired by some kindly folks, and spends his first paycheck on a new pair of boots. He may worry from time to time that he'll get caught, but freedom is so tasty he is delirious.
When she hits 30 she will wonder where are her kids, where is her house, where is her 401K? In her 40's she'll have her kids and house and 401K, but wonder where is her life, where are her flat abs. In her 50's she'll get a new life and a new house and wonder, again, where are her kids, and if she spends the money on a tummy tuck will her 401K be enough to live on when she's in her 60's.
Or maybe she'll hitch a ride to the next town and get hired by some kindly folks. Come to think of it, maybe she is in the best part of life, because even though the 20's are a lot of work they are the most free time of life.
And as much as I may envy her freedom, maybe my job is not to be there for her, but to be here for her.