On the way to my son’s bar mitzvah he quietly announced that if I didn’t cry during the parent’s prayer he would know I loved his older sister more (since I cried during hers). I thought this was hysterical; mostly because I had no idea he was so aware. Generally my son is a master at keeping his emotions in check and it was precisely then that I realized that he was, in fact, mindful of others’ feelings. Sensitivity comes in a variety of configurations.

As I geared up to say good-bye to child three last week, after spending the day setting up her dorm room for her freshman year of college, I was reminded of this and thought I wonder how much I have to cry to prove my unvarying love amongst my children. What if I had learned since dropping the first one off at school that life does go on and that knowing my kids are happily where they should be is enough to ease the ache in my heart; therefore curbing the waterworks upon departure? What if I was looking forward to a little down time with my husband or ready to put my career back in the driver’s seat once again? Does any of this or a limited amount of tears mean that I am not sad about exiting this stage of my life; the twenty-five year period that has been an all-consuming, roller-coaster complete with the delight, excitement, dips, giggles and thrills that go along with it?

Surely motherhood is a lifelong dance from the slow pace in the early stages when we are just getting our footing down; to the rock and roll that gets us through homework, after school activities, jobs, meals, laundry and bedtimes stories; to the waltz when our kids begin to break away, but still need us to keep dancing (in the background, where no one else can see). The rhythm changes, but the music never stops. Then we bring them to college and the only dance move we crave at that point is the moonwalk which is our only chance of going backwards.

And here come the tears. I am not sure if there are more or less than when I dropped the other two off at college. This time in our lives is a myriad of emotion. The waltz continues, but there are many other moves out there to try. I still miss my third and final and wish she could have stayed home a little longer, but appreciate that this is the way it is supposed to go. It’s true; I am not as tearful as I thought I would be, but I am pretty sure that this time no one is measuring. Maybe I am older and wiser, but since when does intellect have anything to do with sentiment? More likely the shrewder I grow the less I worry about what others think, so as the saying goes, I’ll cry if I want to. Mostly though I believe it has to do with the music. I still hear it and the beat in this new stage of life is getting stronger with each passing day.