Your Job Is To Let Them Learn To Fly Away
I used to live in lower Manhattan, among skyscrapers, where cliff-dwelling hawks also felt at home. Every year, a pair of hawks would nest in a rooftop drainpipe across the street. Every year, they would rear a nest full of babies. And every year, there came a time when the mother would fly to the roof of my nearby building and squawk loudly to the baby birds in the nest. The babies would look at their mother as if she had lost her mind, but finally the bravest would make a wobbly flight over, and then the rest would follow, though sometimes a midair rescue was required. Each day, the mother would fly to rooftops further and further away and the young ones would follow. Eventually the fledglings, now strapping young birds, would fly away.
I feel like the mother hawk right now, because each of my twins has flown off to a different institution of higher learning. They are beginning exciting journeys toward adult life, and they are more than ready. I am happy and proud. But also a bit sad.
Those of us who have been pregnant (those of us with twins having been very very pregnant) remember that, after giving birth, we felt a little empty. I was happy no longer to be quite so large, but aware at the same time that childbirth was a change, a separation.
Small and large separations followed, as my children took steps toward independence. They held bottles by themselves, then climbed the jungle gym without help, then traveled to school alone. They laughed and cried with their friends, and built their own lives. But they still came home. This time, the change feels more definitive. Their trajectory is outward, as it should be, and the family routines will change, irrevocably.
The children live in the present, without memories of all of the events that led to this moment. I see the steps along the way, and cannot help but cry, a little. But I strive to be like the lady hawk, quite unsentimental. Now that my fledglings have flown off, strong and free, I am shaken, but thrilled.