No one ever explained to me when they handed me my green-eyed bundle of deliciousness in the hospital 18 years ago, that one day, one dreaded day, I would watch him walk away only to return for summer breaks and occasional holidays. Mothering of my first baby, the one I tried out ‘experimental parenting’ on, the one that I tried my best to keep safe and sound, the one I tried to catch before he fell – will now be fully downgraded from Protective Mom to Coach on an ‘as-needed’ basis only.
These months leading up to the ultimate plane ride to his year abroad in Israel, I had believed would be completely full of bonding. I imagined close times together as we slowly snipped away at the apron strings thread by thread. Movie nights, dinners out, shopping trips to prepare – just the two of us. (Hey, I saw you roll your eyes! You knew how this would go, but I didn’t!)
Instead, these months have turned into a game where I chase after him and he happily runs away to his friends. I make plans and he plans faster. An evening spent with all six of us around a table suddenly became a special occasion instead of a nightly routine. Even his sisters missed having him around.
Some would say that this was the beginning of his separation. Parenting books and other moms have told me it’s completely normal, preferred even, by any psychologist or pediatrician. But, I miss the days of snuggles, smiles and soothing talks. Ah, blech – why do they have to grow up?
These last few days I’ve been sort of an emotional trainwreck no one wants to be near. As I’ve never done this sort of goodbye before and most of my son’s friends have older siblings who’ve left the nest – my own family thinks I’m a lunatic. At one moment I’m all happy and excited for him, the next I’m down his throat yelling over something stupid and then not two seconds later I begin to bawl uncontrollably. To my friends who only have little ones at home I look pathetic. To my friends who’ve done this prior – they sigh and tell me it will get better. With ice cream. And, an occasional martini.
There is nothing that will prepare me properly for this goodbye. Nothing will make one less place setting at our table any more normal. But, what there is in this yucky scenario where he actually grows up is a sense of pride, a sense that our New Normal will be adjustable and that I will appreciate each and every moment we have together more than I ever did before. This will be the opportunity to see the fruits of all that hard labor and watch the young man we’ve ‘planted’ grow into his own success story. This entire process, as one friend reminded me today, is our own doing – both good and bad. The letting go must begin on Monday with that plane goodbye…
Maybe … After ice cream.