Blog Archive

Ramblings from My Journal: When A Child Leaves Home

Thought I'd go ahead and put in my blog some personal journal stuff from this week... My son, Kevin, 20, graduated from college and moved out of the house to Canada. Here it is:

My Son.

About a week ago I was alone in my house cleaning. I became aware of the unusual silence – both kids were out. I thought about aloneness. I remember that Mark told me that because he lives alone since our divorce, sometimes it would be noon before he uttered his first syllable some days. I felt sad for him because I normally have the blessings of family around me when I arise, even if it’s just to say… “You left the lid off the peanut butter last night, dummy!”

In this silence while sorting socks out of the dryer, I also reflected back to the time I had off from work when Kevin was born – all of six exhausting weeks as a new mom-- adjusting to demands of a needy infant. I remember how sleep and eating or even going to the bathroom when I needed to were indulgences and no longer something to take for granted. And then, when I returned to work leaving my baby with caregivers… how I’d give anything… my right arm even… to sacrifice the quiet morning sipping coffee and reading my inbox mail and wearing my clean clothes… oh to go back to the chaos of that freaky, screaming new human to whom I gave birth who wouldn’t allow me a minute to scratch my own ass or who spit up on me or was colicky. And I paused on that as I realized fate would bring me to that same old feeling of disconnect, when the hell of parenting is preferred over anything independent.

I realized that when a grown child leaves the home, it is a private mother’s pain that mustn’t be shared in order to spare the child any guilt. Talking to others may also be moot. Those who have not lived through such a thing and felt such loss will not be compassionate. There is a silent pang of things as the way they once were but no longer are… a loss, just like when someone dies or you divorce. Such feelings are solitary. It is not undesirable to experience such thought… it is to be thoughtfully considered… because I think such emotion tells a story of love. You can pause on the pain and really realize what somebody means to you. The depth of love in direct relationship to feelings of loss/pain provide evidence of something beautiful. I have come to understand polarity of behavior and feeling to be explored.. somewhere in that exploration is clarity, truth and understanding.

I love my son so very much. My heart aches.

Blue sock, white sock… folded and put away.. as I worked around my house the other day, I resolved in that moment to contain the feelings, own them privately, and be brave…

OK, perhaps I am writing this only from my own senses…. There is something so much larger here than the heart of a mother… it is the rite of passage of a boy to manhood. That is a journal essay of a different direction. But for a bit, allow me to allocate a few more words about this motherly response to this important event today.

I should mention… Suddenly, I have become curious and interested in what this experience was for my own mother. I was only 17 when I left home. I was self-important and righteous. I thought I wasn’t wanted and I left with my ass in the air and a car full of my teenage possessions to seek a future by my own design. At Kevin’s graduation earlier this week, Mom told me she couldn’t sleep for weeks after I’d left and dad was worried she was clinically depressed. She described the hole in her heart sensation… mom… drama and all, holding her heart to express such emotion. But I knew exactly what she meant. And I never knew this about my mother, that she pined for me and ached so terribly. She said it wasn’t something she would ever share… I wouldn’t have understood it then. I hugged my mom and I shed a tear… I never knew she loved me back then and I thanked her for telling me… especially now. And I made a mental note that I was going to tell Kevin how much I love him and am supportive of his effort to find his own way. I’m sure I’ve told him that repeatedly, but I wanted to say it again immediately and passionately.

God, I gave that kid so much hell these past few months. I can always see an unclosed loop… something wrong or not good enough. Have you thought about bus money in your budget? Of course not! Oh… the finger pointing mom… So much advice. It’s easy to do, isn’t it? Rain on someone’s parade? After all, I’ve arrived safely to age 45 so “I know these things”. Tonight, the night of my son’s leaving, I feel terribly guilty for not being sweeter to him, more patient, more guiding and less frustrated or founded in fear these past weeks. I overheard him on the phone with Isabelle at the airport a couple of hours ago… he was lit with excitement and telling her he couldn’t believe the day was really here. And I saw how much this time was momentous for him. I smiled remembering being that young and that excited.

I observed Kelly these past few weeks. There were several incidences to which I noted the relationship she has with her brother. When I was out of town this week, the two of them went out for sushi and to the mall together… just like friends. They CHOSE each other’s company. I planned this family… having two children because I wanted my first born to have a sibling and because a family of two children would expand this love. Kevin told me earlier in the week that I shouldn’t worry about Kelly too much, he was 100% certain she rejected the popular path and was often her friends’ designated driver and the one who said, “no”. He said, “She’s a good girl, mom.” I truly know this about Kelly intuitively, and there was no reason Kevin had to say it, but he did because he loves her. Tonight the kids hugged and exchanged, “I love yous.” I didn’t teach them to do that. Where did that come from? I have never said, “I love you” like that to my sibling… I’ve written it to Denise, but never hugged her and said that. Ever.

We said NO CRYING before we left for the airport. We did good. But Kelly had to hide her face a few times. I was so glad we were rushed and focused on tasks so we couldn’t sit for a coke and be sad. He is on a plane now… and there were only 12 passengers the baggage clerk said… he is in seat 5D, but the baggage girl said he has the whole row and the chair arms fold down so he could totally recline. It’s going to be a most wonderful red-eye flight for him. I told him about my business trips to Phoenix and how I always chose the red-eye because it was mysterious and void of masses of people and a very cool middle of the night adventure. So many memories of my formative young adulthood flew by me as I talked with Kevin today. He loved hearing about it.

On the way home… Kelly told me her fears of going away to college and leaving me alone. Oh don’t worry about ME! We talked the whole way back about the college experience and richness of living on campus… as it was for me. She was asking me a million questions and said she had no idea I would be “OK” with her leaving in the fall to a larger university. I gave her my financial philosophy about investing in college – it’s OK to get a school loan. I want her to pursue riches of personal growth by experiencing life outside the safety net of mom’s house. She shared with me the colleges she applied to and that she used her own money for the application fee. I realized tonight what an important time this is in Kelly’s life, her senior year in high school with already 15 college credits behind her.

Tonight, I am not sad. I am happy. I am certain that my children are good people and unique individuals who absolutely need to pursue their independent ways. I am not—never was—the strongest disciplinarian or dictator about their lives. More than ever, I am only a voice, a guide, hopefully an influence. Kelly is a spark of bright light who has the potential to make a difference and be heard because of her charisma and determination. She plays by the rules and wants to give. Kevin is a contemplative soul who is an intellectual and his own enemy because he lives on principles and fights systems… his greatest good may be at a price of his own personal gain for NOT playing by the rules…but he is authentic and so very very sincere. Both of my children are so truly different from the other. There is nothing for me to do except BE THERE and respond wherever needed. They say with kids, the moral fibers, the personhood is formed in early adolescence… seems a parent’s job after then is to ensure the kids don’t die from some stupidity.

Tonight (again) I am alone. Kelly is sleeping at a friend’s house. My boy’s room is empty of his pyramid of empty coke cans he didn’t throw away, or his dirty laundry strewn about. And like the times when he spit up on me as a baby is as it is now… oh, how I wish I was tripping over a wet towel on the bathroom floor and cursing his name than sipping Celestial Peppermint tea writing this, remembering his last hug and words, “I love you, mom.”

He is my son.


MelissaTheRagamuffin said...

I'm going to have an empty nest sometime in the near future. We went to the Sprint store today and spun their phones off of my contract.

sheila222 said...

Doreen, you nailed it with this post. In all aspects (and you made me bawl). Reminded me of a saying of my Sunday School teacher- and I know I am repeating myself (approaching senility, not yet totally arrived). As children grow up, they're no longer on your hands, but always on your heart. Best wishes for a smooth transition for all.

Spidey said...

letting your children fly free means you did your job. you can take pride in the fact that you raised someone who has the intelligence and self confidence to take care of themselves.
i have been an empty nester for 2 years now and i can't say i don't love it. but sometimes when the house is quiet and i am alone in the morning, i will walk past the now empty bedrooms and yell out... time to get up and go to school. and when there is silence, a pang of sadness ripples through me and i think... now why did you do that to yourself?
my son's bedroom closet still has some of the things he left behind. clothes he out grew, hats, books,toys,his first teddy bear. and sometimes i open that door, and i can still smell him. and i step inside and shut the door and cry a little bit. i can't clean it out, and i really don't need it, so i leave it.
letting go of a son is harder than a daughter, cause a daughter never really leaves. but a son has responsibilities to another woman. and he can't be your baby anymore.
not to forget my daughter, she is truly my best friend now. she "gets" me now, and understands all those years when she was growing up.
so cheer up. you did a good job.