When Your Children Leave

All through your life, your children open and shut doors.  Each door they come back through, your children grow up a little bit more.

children grow upI can remember when I was a new mom, my life was full of babies and diapers and crying. I thought it would never, ever end. Then it did.

When my boys went into toddlerhood and the preschool years, there were the unending playdates and preschool and shuttling them to a bazillion different activities to “socialize” them. Picking up their toys in every room of the house, picking some out of VCRs and vents, the unending battle to get them to clean up their rooms and pick up their own toys. That ended too.

The grammar school years. We learned about homework and how to fight about getting it done, parent-teacher conferences where I heard the now-familiar “he’s not performing up to his potential.” My oldest son memorizing Dorothy Parker poems for poetry recitation days to torment his 5th Grade teacher who hated him and he hated in return. Both of them finding new things they could do well — playing guitar, computer programming, acting, speech. Each time I would look at them and think, when did my children grow up?  But they had more to do.

When the grammar school years ended for both boys, I knew I wasn’t a young mom anymore, I was now a teenagers’ mom. Gone was the innocence and kidding and the almost-reverent mommy adoration. The new door that opened unveiled my oldest to be the new, improved, surly nihilist with enough teenage angst to drown a mother. Then I wondered, did my children grow up to be a psychopath?

The teenage years were unbelievably difficult, but the most fun I’ve ever had. Challenging to stay ahead of maturing, getting-smarter-every-day boys, to anticipate their fibs, their feints, while instructing them in all the things they will need when they are on their own. Walking the line between lecturing them too much so they don’t hear you anymore and saying enough of the important things over and over again that when they reach the moral fork in the road, yours is the voice they hear when they need it most.

My oldest is 19, and there were days when I did not know if he would survive and days when I thought he could do anything. He is brilliant and fun and still surly and immature in so many ways, and he is gone.  The reality that my children grow up is here.

Moved out into a one-bedroom apartment with two other young men. This is a happy time, that he’s actually moved out and is mostly on his own now, and sad because I will miss that snarl when I forget and flush the toilet when he is in the shower. I will miss the quick humor that you see hundreds of times a week, but that will become unfamiliar now that we do not share a home.

I will miss the person he has become. Just when it’s getting interesting, they head off on their own.

As he leaves, and my almost-16-year-old is in the countdown phase to leaving, I know the last part of my mom life is ending. I will always be their mother, but the active raising of my children is almost over. All I can ask now is have I done enough? Did I give him (them) enough tools to survive, to make good decisions? Did I say enough so that he will hear my voice when his moral compass can’t find north?

Will he survive and be happy and find a nice girl and get married? Will he be back in two months because he can’t stand the crowded conditions of three young men in a one-bedroom apartment?

So I see my mommy life coming to an end, that door is closing, and I mourn. The door opening will be the one of worrying from a distance and hoping they really aren’t going to get serious with that little tramp who reminds me of a tramp I used to know back in high school. This door opens to grandchildren eventually, but in the meantime there is now an “otherness” about my oldest son that will grow. The separation is almost complete, and he will become more of a mystery.

This is a hard road, starting with a cell of mine to two people inhabiting the same body, to two bodies, to now two completely different lives.

All of this is as it should be, but, damnit, it’s hard.

The next time my husband gleefully starts planning on redecorating my oldest’s room and turning it into something else, I’m gonna lay him out, I swear.  My children grow up, and I will grow up too.

Okay, /self-pity off.

  • Patty says:

    Ah, you don’t need energy. Do you like sweeter perfumes or green or woody? I’ll fix you up and send you some samples if you want. Seriously! Better yet, come visit, damnit!

  • marbledog says:

    I’d like to put in a few more years of theoretically income earning so we can choose a place where they empty the bedpans more than once a day.

    Looking at your perfume posts, I’m thinking there’s a whole new world to explore. But I don’t think I have the energy. Jasmine and Lilac have always been and will probably always be my favorites.

  • Patty says:

    Sorry!!! It’s just so hard! I’m happy they’re growing up, but I still miss being their sun and moon, and those days aren’t ever coming back.

    I’ve been luring him over with food and snacks. Kind of like setting out bread crumbs for him. He’s been doing his own laundry since he was 8, so I can’t use that directly, but free washer and dryer will help.

    so when do we pick out the old folks haven for us to move to?

  • marbledog says:

    Aw GEEEEEEZ Patty. Do you gotta give me a lump in my throat? I’ve already had a billion of them today for all the homeless wretches at Christmas time. And I can’t even empathize with them (why don’t they just get a JOB?? Pull themselves up by their bootstraps???) (I’m kidding) (Sort of). But I can emphathize with you because that’s what I’m going through. Except that my kids seem to move out for a few days and then move in for a few days. It’s kind of hard to keep track.

    I have found, though, that if I never do any of their laundry, they visit more often, in hopes they will find clean clothes. I’m sure you’ll figure out some tricks to get him to visit often enough but not too often.