Signs of Emotion

It took 18 years of unconditional love to get one of these red and white signs with my daughter’s name on it, stuck into the ground of my front yard.

It’s both a literal and metaphoric sign, which represents all the joy, work, laughter and struggles that go into growing a child to adulthood. It’s what my husband and I have worked towards and hoped for, dreaming of the accomplishment while savoring each day and year. I’ve always said of mothering that while the days sometimes seemed extremely long, the years were way too short. It’s a kind of parenting time warp. As if to prove my point, now that the sign is finally up, I wonder how it got there so quickly. 

Having already sent my older child off to college 2 years ago, I’ve had some practice at separating. I’ve never been an overly possessive mother, and believe in giving my children space to be who they are. That’s what I always wanted as a child, and I’ve had a lifelong determination to go my own way, despite parental concerns. When I finished high school, I moved to the other side of the world, traveled alone through some amazing and sketchy places, slept on beaches and benches and had the experience of a lifetime. I did it again after college, and consider those adventures to be some of the most powerful and meaningful in my life (second only to raising children). My mother, however, still shudders at the memory of me being so far away and unaccounted for. For whatever reason, I needed to be out in the world and am thrilled I followed my wanderlust.

As a parent, I’ve always been aware that my own precious children would likewise one day want to be released into the world. I’ve made peace with the idea, though it turns out that it’s harder to be on the receiving end of the equation.

As for putting another sign up in my yard, this one feels harder than the last, but that’s to be expected. This time, my nest is emptying out completely. I know our bond is deep and that my kids will stay close in spirit, though it’s really not the same as physical proximity. At the same time, though, the pride of accomplishment I feel for the independent people my kids have become is a force to be reckoned with. It inspires something like a loud mama lion roar, deep within me.

In acknowledging the lifecycle that my family has reached, there’s room for more than one dominant emotion, and I’m indulging in several simultaneously. My babies have grown, and while they still need parenting (and money), my role will continue to change as they become more and more their own people. That’s as it should be.

So, for all the signs you see around Glen Ridge, know that putting them up undoubtedly conjured a mixed bag of feelings for the parents — and probably the kids as well. Even some of my neighbors have gotten teary and emotional about Maya graduating. Many of them have known her since she was born.

Through the tears and pride, we move forward and celebrate each amazing child whose name is emblazoned across the front of their sign — an emblem of having reached a certain milestone. Congratulations to us all on a job well done. It’s been an exceptional journey.

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  1. Am I a bad person for being fixated on the landscaping around the signs? Yeah, probably. Congrats to all — and love to all the Bleibergs.

  2. You may indeed be focusing on the wrong thing, Debbie, but I actually found it an interesting visual element as well. I had fun noticing what the signs looked like through the lense, even after shooting 50 some odd pics. One photo, which got replaced when the family sent an upgrade including their son, had a cat in it. I loved that and was sad to take it down. My vote for nicest landscaping around the sign goes to Lily. I think they’ve gardened for years, just for this photo opp!

  3. Bebop, I think they must be – I never saw them in SoCal either.
    uniquely Jersey, along with those big signs that advertise the name, birthday and sometimes size of a newborn. (frankly, those signs freak me out because what better way to advertise to the world that there is a new, exhausted, post-partum mom at home, most likely alone, with a tiny baby. Hi everyone! come steal my kid, please! Of course, I do tend to be a bit paranoid.)

  4. I can’t even think about my kids doing some of the same things I did when traveling alone. Repress, repress.

    This is a fantastic send-off, Erika! And since I’m repressing these thoughts for another 13 or 14 years, I have to say, the ceiling of your porch is gorgeous!

  5. @Kristin, it’s so much more appealing to focus on things like porch ceilings than the reality of time marching on, though honestly, in the blur of childrearing, not sure I looked up there too often. Now I’ll be able to sit back and study the planking…

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