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Following Your Heart

That news is forever etched in my mind, no that one is stitched in – the moment when we found out we were going to have twins; our tiny family of three was quickly going to grow to five. In one of those quiet moments following the news (it was a long moment – we were speechless), my husband revealed his biggest fear, he was worried that he “couldn’t love another two babies as much as he loved our daughter, his heart was full, he just couldn’t imagine loving anyone else that much”. So I told him what I believed then, and what I know now, that your heart simply “grows bigger”. I’m not quite sure how it happens; it just grows, gets larger and fills with even more love.

When all three were still toddlers, we would spend hours at the park, playing, watching. Pushing them endlessly on the swings, they would shout “higher, go higher”. They would play with their trucks in the sand, chase each other up and down the slide, and squeal, look up with their eyes fixated on me on the bench, and yell “Mommy, watch this!” I can remember thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if time could stand still, if they could be young forever, laughing, playing, healthy and happy”. It is such a glorious time, that moment in childhood and motherhood, where you have no idea what’s coming and the only thing that matters is right now. I knew then that those really are the “time stands still” moments, the ones that warm your heart, and the ones you go back to, when you want to remember.

Of course it is true, as our children grow; our capacity to love them grows right alongside. I remember in grade eight, our daughter had argued with friends, ending in tears, and she ran to her bedroom, threw herself on the bed crying, really crying. You know, the kind of loud sobbing that makes you feel really awful afterwards and gives you a headache but at the time is completely warranted – your world has been shattered. Then, after chatting about it and deciding what repair work needed to be done, I left her, still crying, but a quieter, gentler crying, the kind you do just before you fall asleep, still sad but knowing tomorrow will be better. And I remember, closing her bedroom door, with my heart aching. I would have done anything to take that pain away, to have had that moment never happen, and to have saved her heart. But these are the experiences that make your heart stronger, build that ever important muscle, and prepare it for the heavier things to come.

By the time they hit high school, your heart adjusts. They’re older, they understand more, and their hearts have already been through a lot. They know how to open it, and how to close it off to shield some of the pain so it doesn’t hurt quite so much. For us, our hearts become “heavier”; we worry more, about late night parties, learning to drive, and the pressure – the pressure that comes with becoming a young adult.

In our daughter’s final year of high school, it felt like our hearts were riding a roller coaster. One day it was about the graduation, the dress, the freedom and the excitement. The next day it was about the grades, the future, the decisions, the anxiety of “knowing who to be, what to do”. And with each day, no matter, up or down, I always gave the same advice “follow your heart”. I would tell her to strip away all of the distracting stuff, the stuff that gets in the way and ask “what is the right thing to do, the true and good thing to do”.

With the end of high school looming, came the “heartfelt” decision to leave home, to travel, and to live abroad, and the decision to share her heart with a young man. While her heart was telling her it was time to go; ours was telling us we might not survive. Our home would never be the same if that heart left, even for a short time.

And so for the next six months, while they worked several jobs, researched routes, bought backpacks and hiking boots, I worked on my “heart”. I worked on letting her go, a little more each day and I worked on gratitude, for having raised a strong and confident young woman, ready to take her heart out into the world. In our hearts we knew it was time; time to watch, and to love, and to let go.

That day finally arrived, the day we sent her off to Europe, her boyfriend at her side, and I realized something. My heart wasn’t going to break after all; she was simply going to be taking a piece of it with her. A piece she could keep for those quiet desperate moments, those “did I do the right thing” and “what was I thinking” moments, and for those times when her heart would ache for home and for family. When the time came to make their way through the security gate, she turned and looked back, threw us one of those famous smiles, and blew us a kiss. And, I blew her a kiss right back, and as I did, I said quietly, so no one would hear “Be careful doll, you’re traveling with my heart”.

Our daughter is still traveling and living abroad, nearly 4 years later, and I continue to keep her close in my heart.

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