One month after he arrived home for Christmas vacation, my oldest son left again earlier this week to return to college.
Having him home again was, most of the time, delightful. It made me extremely happy to walk by his bedroom and see the door closed. Isn't that weird?
Before you think he's some kind of freak, he's not. He's just 19. And the door wasn't always closed. The reason I'm positive the door wasn't always closed was because I can clearly visualize the damp towels on the floor and unmade bed.
The experiences we had at home started off with almost cliche-like situations, where we heard phrases like "I'm not a baby" or "No one else needs to be home when I do" whenever we discussed what might make a reasonable time for him to return home after an evening out. I've read about this and heard about it but it was uncomfortable to actually live through it. It didn't take long to settle into a 'time to come home' agreement that made all parties concerned more (that would be us) or less (that would be him) content. The push-back was almost inevitable, and absolutely manageable.
For me, the very best part of my son being home with us was the fact that within reason, I could give him a hug or talk with him anytime I felt like it. Sure, he spent time with friends and his girlfriend but there were many occasions where I could go hang with him and chat or hop online or whatever. It was nice.
But just a few months after we made an emotional parting as he began his college career, we had another parting when I dropped him off on Monday. It felt entirely different to me. The 'missing him' feelings and the constant thread of "please be careful" thoughts that weave their way through some part of my consciousness at all times: those were still there. The sliver of unoccupied space he would leave in his absence was still there. I missed him already.
But this time, I dropped him off and ..what was this? Unbelievably, uncomfortably, improbably and inexplicably for me, it felt almost like I was dropping him off where he belonged. It's hard for me to believe that's true but it's starting to feel true.
I'm not sure who changed but I suspect it's me. And I wasn't expecting it. I wasn't prepared. Part of me wonders if that makes me a bad mother. Or maybe not bad - but at least - a detached mother. That's not quite the correct term either but it's something like that. Is it possible that I could start to accept the new reality in my life - one of my children moving on, moving away, moving toward complete independence - in a matter of a few months?
I've never thought of myself as "detached" or whatever the correct word is. Maybe it's the very pragmatic part of me asserting itself. I wish I were more "romantic" or whimsical about life but the truth is, I'm not. I tend to be your classic Capricorn (although astrology is ridiculous.) In case you're interested, here's what astrology says about Capricorns: "On the downside: Cold, Miserly, Indifferent, Rigid. Your good qualities include: Practical, Self-disciplined, Responsible, Reliable. Controlling your abilities, ambitions, destiny, and priorities will be your life's work." A barrel of laughs, right? Somehow, this particular string of words make admirable qualities like self-discipline, reliability and responsibility sound miserable. I'm not touching the feel-good words in the description, words like miserly, cold, indifferent and rigid.
All this to say, I'm still not exactly sure why or how I developed this unspoken and mostly unwelcome perception of myself as the mother of a son who is ultimately and irrevocably heading out the door and possibly, just possibly, being okay with that. I know I haven't quite reconciled that persona within myself.
It's sort of interesting to ponder..although yes, there is still a bit of me that wishes we could stop time and find a place that feels comfortable and livable and stay there. But the question is: comfortable for who? For me? For my sons? I suspect we'd choose different moments to freeze if we could.
That wouldn't work, even if we could do it. I'd miss the future, if you know what I mean. In my better moments, I think it's possible that we'll all get to a new place together.
But the boys may get there just slightly ahead of me.