It hit me a month ago, on my daughter’s tenth birthday. The weekend before, we’d gotten our family photos back, and a teared up looking at them. On her birthday, I woke up before my alarm, feeling some kind of way. At first, I couldn’t identify the feeling, only to say that I felt fragile. I spent the whole day in a whirlwind of emotions, oscillating between feeling jubilant and sad, and sometimes feeling more than one emotion at the same time. I was on the verge of tears every time I scrolled through pictures of my girl over the years and now. I beamed with pride and then had to stop from looking at the family photos, even though I needed to choose a few for our Christmas cards. On my way home, I called my parents and told them about this feeling. They understood, and my dad said he always thought of it as being melancholy, but that didn’t quite seem to fit it. Melancholy is feeling sad for no reason, and I could tell there was a reason for my happysadness, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.
After getting everyone settled and in bed, I sat on the couch with my husband to debrief the day and process this feeling a little further. I described the varying emotions I felt: grateful, joyful, proud, sad, a little nervous were a few of the first words that came to mind. I was grateful for our little family and this season of life that is jam packed but so full of joy. I was proud of my kids – of who they are becoming and all that might be. I was sad that my years of having a “little girl” were over, because turning 10 feels like a shift. And also a little nervous that this new season of life with a tween and then teenager might not be as great.
I also did a little Google research on the topic. This article from Today.com helped me understand a little bit more about how I was feeling. The most helpful quote was this: “Endings that are also beginnings make these “emotionally-rich” events”. This milestone birthday certainly was emotionally rich. So much to celebrate in this first decade, so many memories to cherish. At the same time, there is a sadness that my girl doesn’t crawl up in my lap as often as she used to. She’s starting to roll her eyes at me instead of gazing at me adoringly. Similarly, these family photos, these snapshots in time, remind me of this season with the wild little boy energy I’m constantly trying to wrangle. I know one day they will be sullen teenagers, not begging for my attention or pulling on my legs or getting in my face to talk to me.
Maybe motherhood is just a series of emotionally rich events, where we’re constantly on the precipice of this happysad feeling. And maybe as much as anything, this happysadness is just a full heart – full of memories and hopes and disappointments and, most of all, gratitude. What a gift this journey of motherhood is, what a blessing these children are – how the good and the hard are constantly intertwined and how beautiful it is to experience it all.