All motherhood is a continuous act of letting go. I knew that, or was learning it at every stage; well enough to know that every age marks another thing you no longer need to do for your child. And it's not always a wrench. School means free time in which to work, uninterrupted by the latest discoveries and inventions of a six year old. Time alone is a relief.
Then why do I feel like I'll go mad if there is another moment of utter stillness? After two weeks of answering every five minutes, the question, "How many more days for me to go to Bombay?" I thought I would be happy that the question had answered itself in the grandest possible way: with flight and arrival. But I'm not.
Today is my son's seventh birthday, but the first one where he and I are in different cities. I've been waiting to call, but he's asleep. When he wakes up, there are things that have been planned. When I call, maybe he will be too busy - as he always is when he has to speak on the phone - to talk for long.
It's been years since I've shed the selfish conviction I had held before I became a parent, that a child's birth day is about the mother: after all, I reasoned, she's the one who does all the hard work; it is she who should be celebrated. Of course today I don't feel like invoking the right I'd assigned to myself in a more foolish time; but I can't help a small wail in my head that says, 'what about me?'
But I'm not feeling sorry for myself, let me hasten to add. This is more a feeling of being bereft, of not knowing what to do with all the free time that one craved, of a strange kind of emptiness.
Oh well. I'm considering it from his point of view, though, and suddenly things look much sunnier. One birthday week in Bombay, followed by another family thing when he's back home. Time was when I used to be so excited by my own birthday that I'd remind people a few weeks in advance so they'd remember to wish me. The week preceding my birthday was Birthday Week. This must be like that - a whole couple of weeks of excitement and a conviction so deeply felt that it needn't even be articulated, that one's presence in the world makes it a better place and an event worth celebrating at the appropriate time.