Round about this time of the year a lot of parents say goodbye to their beloveds sending them off into a heady abyss of learning, drinking and re-thinking. It’s the university experience I’m writing about on this occasion but it could just as easily be leaving home in general…This year is the first time such experience has tapped me on the shoulder. Oh. My. Goodness.
Let’s be honest here, I’ve been preparing for today for the past 18 and a bit years. I knew, I’ve always known that some day this kid, my first born will fly the coup, I’ve always known it would be earlier than I was ready and similarly I knew he’d be quite fine.
But the thing I did not account for is the empty chunk left in the general heart region. The chunk that I didn’t know was required in order to feel what I might only describe as whole — right — normal…
I do concede it is time for a new normal, a normal that doesn’t involve flicking on the front lights in anticipation of his late arrival home from work or a party, a new normal that doesn’t involve smelling the stink of his shoes at the front door, and a new normal that does not involve saying good morning — and good night to him just about every day for the best part of 18 years.
Holy fluck. It’s a normal that’s going to take some getting used to. And, may I add a normal that quite took me by surprise.
I’ve always worked. Work has always involved travel. I did naively think that distance would provide me with the emotional buffer required to swan through this. Um… Nup! Fat lot of good that did in this week of questions… Questions that I’ve asked thousands of times over the past 18 years, however now there is no re-do, no going back. The answers to the questions are bedded down, stuck in time. Did I do enough? Have I taught him enough? Is he wise enough? Will he cope? Will he eat right? Is he resilient enough? Does he know what to do with a dark day? Will he be OK?
Are you crying again? One of the (two) remaining children asks… Why? I wonder is the ratio of care factor for missing child versus present children so outweighted? I notice with great clarity that this has been noted.
And then I’m OK.
Until I see his empty bedroom, walk through the supermarket accidentally picking out his favourite food, think I hear the sound of his car in the driveway, or imagine he’s just on a holiday but then remember… This is the next stage.
“He wouldn’t like that you were crying again” The more pragmatic child reminds me. And she’s quite right. But somehow the bandaid lifted and every, single, freaking thing reminds me that things are different now and even though this is actually quite a good thing, it’s not the same.
Perhaps I’m just wallowing in a whole bunch of self-pitying, nowhere facing rhetoric and actually it’s time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and truly take that leap from the human I was at 28 when giving birth to 45 where said children no longer actually need me, at least not in the same role.
Yes, I think that may just be the case… Or, I could just choose some good self-care I suppose.
So what next??? Actually, there is a quietly excited part of me that’s rather keen to explore that answer.
I’ve done ‘grief’ before, I know the waves, I know how to ride them. know that in time they are not quite as intense. I tell people around me I might just be a little ‘leaky’ for a little while. And I keep all of that a secret from first born (knowing he never reads my stories is a bonus).
Is this you? My recommendation… Say goodbye and good luck with great confidence. Leave the door open and make space, lots and lots of space for everyone in your close realm to grow into the new normal. Don’t expect it to happen overnight because as big as this leaving home thing is, it’s right.