No way to prepare for all the 'mom' moments

Some things, they don't warn you about.

Others, even things you'd rather not know, are shared in abundant detail - labor and delivery experiences, kids' test scores, social gaffes. All stories told parent-to-parent about raising kids.

To be fair, I am grateful for the stories, most of which can be boiled down to a central nugget of meaningful advice. Girlfriends and strangers alike have shared knowledge that is worth more than any information from Dr. Oz, Oprah or podcasters combined.

The life experience/wisdom of other moms has buoyed me when I've had to dog-paddle for sanity. I've mentioned one friend, Jill, in this column before. She's shared her insights over coffee or laughter, as if telling a silly story, but really telling mom-truths. When she dropped her eldest child at an out-of-state university several years ago, she said she felt like she'd left one of her own vital organs behind. A few years later, I recognized that eviscerated feeling myself when we moved Charlie into Ohio State.

But what no one mentioned, what I wasn't prepared for, is how much it still hurts, the leaving.

I'd anticipated how wonderful the arriving would be. A date on the calendar, flights confirmed, joyful mom-ness kicking in weeks ahead of time: meal planning, grocery shopping, baking, etc. Even the treachery of the airport under construction, security guards waving frantically at us to move on, can't diminish the joy of the arrival. Grown children coming home, from college, grad school, arriving.

The house is full, life is good, my family is home, complete. Cold days, rainy days, hot blistering days, it doesn't matter. Because here at home we are together and it is just warm enough. Everyone relaxes. I settle in to the rightness of all of our kids being home, together. Somehow even when they go out, reconnecting with friends, they are still home. My subconscious registers their comings and goings, I take mental note, and all is well.

But then: time. It literally flies. Boarding passes are retrieved, laundry packed, goodbyes and hugs shared. The trip to the airport seems shorter, too short, as we pull in past the grumpy security people. Our grown children unfold long legs from the backseat and sling their bags over their shoulders. My husband stays in the driver's seat, ready to move the car if security so demands. I step out and hug my son as he smiles under his mask, heading back to his own life and the world he's building. The next day, the next son. Another hug, another goodbye.

I watch them as they walk into the airport and my stomach drops, my heart aches. I remember the first day I dropped them at preschool, how excited they were and how hopeful. How expectant. I was happy, too, but also sad. Missing them even while celebrating their growth and the adventures ahead of them.

I just didn't think it would continue forever, the happy/sad of saying goodbye to our kids.

No one warned me about that part, how they take a part of you with them, every time they leave.

- Kelly Abata Kallas of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].