Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): You weren’t prepared for it.
MOLLY: It's true: I was shocked.
MOM: I think it’s a very common experience that you had. You're having ambivalent feelings about your children growing up and becoming more independent. Not only common: it’s normal. And it sounds like you weren’t quite ready for it when it happened and it really surprised you.
MOLLY: It confused me because I was excited for her to start school and honestly ready for the summer to be over.
MOM: Yes, it's true that you feel all of those things, but when you actually experienced it, when you waved goodbye to your daughter on the bus going off to school…You were just what? Struck by….?
MOLLY: I think it was the moment when... Well, we had prepped her the night before about riding the bus and she was nervous that she was going to get car sick, so we suggested that she try to sit in the very front of the bus. When she got on the bus she choose the very first seat, sat down, and looked out the window and started waving goodbye to me.
MOM: Oh, I could cry just hearing about it. You looked at her and you saw your vulnerable little child. Here she was going off into the world without her mommy or daddy to protect her. Off to her first day of school.
MOLLY: On the bus!
MOM: On the bus. Wow. Just even talking about it can make me well up.
MOLLY: I was so surprised that I had that reaction, and it took me the whole week to recover.
MOM: And you had been looking forward to her going off to school for months.
MOLLY: I know! I couldn’t wait for school to start.
MOM: The whole idea about ambivalent feelings is the ability to hold both sides of the feeling inside you at the same time. The ambivalent feelings for you were that on the one hand you were glad that you were going to have time to yourself and she was crossing this milestone and going off to elementary school, but on the other hand you were sad because you recognized that this was another step in her growing up and eventually moving away, so to speak. Away, in this instance, meaning out of the realm of only your influence.
MOLLY: When I told you that I got in my car and started crying you said, “You didn’t do that in front of your daughter, did you?”
MOM: (laughs) I did say that, didn’t I? Well, you don’t want....
Read the rest of Dr. Rutherford's advice at Conversations With My Mother.com
Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford are behind the blog “Conversations With My Mother”: a blog about raising kids and how our parenting decisions now can have long term effects.
Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University (NYU), and the University of Denver.
Molly is Dr. Rutherford's younger daughter and the mother of two children under six.