I’m weepy today. I’m not sad or depressed—those are totally different states. Just weepy. I’m sure a good bit of it is due to lack of sleep (I really need to start going to bed earlier!) and biological inclination (thanks, Mom and Grandma!) but it’s also been an emotionally exhausting summer. Turns out, all emotions, even good ones, are exhausting in their way.

Today’s metaphor is brought to you by Melody, the nice lady at our bank. See, for several years, I’ve had a beaded jewelry business with some dear friends. It went pretty well, too. But as life changed, it slowly became less of a priority in our lives. This week we finally officially called it quits. This is a good thing—the business has essentially been dormant for over a year—but it was still kind of sad even though I in no way regret this choice. As I closed the account, the lady at the bank said sympathetically, “Well, when one door closes, another opens…” I grinned at her and said, “No, I already had way too many doors open. It’s time to close a few—the cross winds are getting to be too much.” But it’s hard to close doors without some sadness, even when you’re relieved and know it’s the right thing to do. Emotions are seldom simple and straightforward.

I’m back to that identity issue, but you know, we do often have to label ourselves for easy categorization in our daily lives. I used to have a standard answer for that—I teach writing at Penn State and the cool weird thing about me is I have a small handmade jewelry business. I’ve shut both those doors this summer. I’m thrilled about the doors that are left open to me, but it’s taking some adjusting to realize that my bog-standard answer for “And what do you do?” is no longer relevant.

But I think the immediate trigger for my weepiness today is something else. My kids just got their back-to-school letters for 4th and 5th grade. I’m not caught up in some fit of nostalgia here, wishing they’d stay babies. I really do want them to grow up—I don’t know what I’d do if we ended up stagnated at some age. I love watching them change and grow, and I love the new experiences that open up to us as they mature. And I love when they grow out of whatever quirk was making me insane! There isn’t a single stage they’ve gone through that I would want to be permanent.

It’s hard, though, to watch them face the world more independently. I remember all too clearly the slings and arrows I faced from my peers, starting in earnest around 5th grade. I want to gather them close and protect them. I want to give them my wisdom that school is not the world, and that they just need to survive these years and things will be different and probably a lot better in college and after. People usually get kinder and more accepting with a bit of maturity.

But I also know these are lessons they can only learn through their own experiences. I’m just not looking forward to the pain of watching them learn those lessons, knowing all I can do is be there to listen, hug, and wipe tears.

Somehow back-to-school letters brought this home to me. My role as mother is changing, because I can’t protect them in the same way I could when most of their lives were wrapped up in home and family. Going through this door, too, is a good thing, but it’s not one I get to consciously choose. I’m getting pushed through it whether I want to go or not. So I’m weepy—not sad or depressed, just a bit tired out by the emotional expenditure that comes as we’re all growing and changing, even when those changes are all for the good.

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