Two weeks from today my first child, my son Alex, leaves for college- and not a college in a nearby town but in a southern state 13 hours away by car. This is the child who was born 3 1/2 weeks premature, weighing 4 lbs. 14 ozs, and who didn't weigh what a normal new born would weigh till he was three months old. My husband kept saying "He looks like a little squab" as we looked at baby photos of him the other day.
This is the child who has aged me considerably these last two years. He was only doing what he had to do- which was asserting himself, trying out independence and autonomy; and I was only doing what a mother does- which was letting go, or trying to learn to let go while watching over him fiercely like the mother hawk that I am. I don't know how to love casually and dis-interestedly. But I had to learn to love from an increasing hands-off distance. I would give myself a C, so far.
At least I am not failing the Course "How to Be the Mother of a Teenage Son". The only mother who fails that course is the mother who gives up...permanently. I have given up many times. Usually at the dinner table. My son reminded me of that last night. My level of frustration will rise as the level of my son's humor-turned-into-sarcasm sometimes rises, and I'll throw my hands up, and retreat to the bedroom for some peace. (I normally did this when the supper turned out to be dry or burnt. It was easier to retreat then.)
But I only gave up temporarily. You're allowed to do that. Some nice people call it surrendering. Some Christians- the gracious kind- will murmur how you are wise to give up, to let go, to walk away. Even if I yelled out, "I quit! I'm not going to mother you anymore. Do your own laundry and make your own meals!", I meant it...for only an hour or so. Then that need to love and care for someone who tried my patience would return and I would buck up and brace myself to go on clumsily mothering my soon-to-fly-off little chickadee. Only this chickadee grows a beard in a day and walks like a man and sometimes comes back home for a quick hug and a whisper of encouragement to me: "You're not so bad, Mom".
That's what will ring in my ears as he and his Dad fill the car with all his stuff and drive off to take him to his college, to take him to his future. I might feel a bit teary eyed but then I'll think of all that awaits him: the challenges, the fun, the growing, the discovery of it all. And then when I walk into the house and see the silent drum set in the garage, and hear no raucous music blasting from his room, and see no dirty clothes lying around the bathroom floor, I'll whisper to myself, "It's not so bad." And then I'll know that he and I can do this thing called Letting go.