Friday, August 17, 2013. 6:30 am. I rise, stifled with emotion. It’s been weeks that the thought has been weighing down upon me. I walk to his room. My gaze fixes in the direction of my boy snuggled tightly in his duvet, sacked out, without a care in the world. I scoot for my cell phone. Standing at the doorway, noiselessly, I click pictures of him deep in slumber. Visions of the soon to be empty bed painfully cross my mind, for tonight he’s flying a huge geographical distance to join college, and to live away from us for the first time. It is probably in those lonesome moments that I’ll seek comfort in these snapshots.
I’m somewhat relieved, a lot happy, and filled with pride about his first flight to an independent life. But, what saddens me is that a part of my nest will be empty.
It’s been over a month since he left. Easy call facilities and the internet have aided effortless, day-to-day communications. He always has something new to say about himself, while, for the rest of us, life hasn’t changed much, minus him by our side.
Not that I am jostled out of a reverie, for I never did believe that the lives we had until now would last forever. The perfect ordinary days spent in living together with our children under one roof meant the world to me as it does to all mothers. And, here, my first born even before his eighteenth birthday has travelled far to create a life of his own. Nonetheless, I have come face to face with a reality I had known all along. We’ve marked a milestone, but the associated felicity is streaked with heartache.
The chaos that filled the house with his physical presence, his music, his books, and most importantly his untidiness, has abruptly fallen in place. There’s no one to regale over Manchester United’s newest squad or berate the team for scoring poorly in the Premier League games. Friends, the sounds of their uproarious laughter and the sight of identical gaming controllers strewn about the living room, have culminated into silence. Above all, my personal involvement in his life, right from catering to his taste buds to being ardently entangled in his school activities, has condensed into periodically checking his welfare through text messages.
Strange as it may sound, but admittedly the twinge of separation is splashed with a beam of pride and a gush of excitement. The ardour that fills his daily life several thousand miles away upholds the perception, not just for him but for me as well, that each new day seals in a “bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” Funny, but oddly true, his dreams, his young adulthood, its possibilities and opportunities, have become a part of my own dreams, desire and delight.
Our erstwhile dinner table confabs have shrunk to online chats, Skype and phone calls, but given the orbit between us, the net existence and text speak is not devoid of fulfillment. However, I keep reminding myself that in the years to come the videos chats will get more and more infrequent and I will have to contend with fewer ‘camera’ appearances of the man who’ll always be my little boy.
My personal sketch is not singular. July, August and September, are months when many parents have to deal with the bittersweet freedom that stems from seeing their children off to college. All these years they have actively supported their young ones to become independent, yet the reality of letting them go can be agonizing. Mothers sometimes find it difficult to hide the pangs of sadness that result from loneliness and a loss of sense of purpose.
Strangely, but reasonably though, with our son grown and flown, we have not allowed ourselves to descend into the pool of gloom and despair. Although we aren’t empty nesters yet, for we are blessed to have our twelve year old daughter with us, I guess we wouldn’t have been different otherwise too. My daily activities, teaching, and interests beyond parenting, and of course a fair bit of rational thinking to balance the infinite love and longing for my child, have helped to keep boredom, solitude and sorrow at bay. Nostalgia grips me now and then but has never taken the better of me.
Missing a loved one is natural and healthy, but being devastated with the absence is another thing. It is also a fact that profession, career and hobbies are not factors that can replace a mother’s identity, but the least they do is provide coping tools to ease the discomfort. For moms who are endlessly involved in their children’s lives, the pain of separation is sometimes too much to bear, and they crumble under the effect. Professional counseling offers them some relief.
Midway through, while some mothers initially grapple to come to terms with their children moving out of the family home, others take it as an opportunity to redefine their lives. It gives them a chance to reinvent themselves in a positive way and allow the long distance communications to strengthen the bond with their children. I can say (with a grin) that texting with a mature teen can be fun! And, if you get it right today, your life can be different from this point on.
Saying goodbye to your child is definitely distressing, but it pays to make it a healthy experience. It is observed that teens whose parents cope better with separation, find it easier to settle into the new environment. So, in case you are lonesome, snap out, look through those rose tinted glasses and help yourself feel better.
Remember, as you yearningly cherish the fond memories of your youngster, it is worthwhile building new ones with your independent child.