Monday, February 2, 2015

The Emptying Nest

He brushes past me on his way to anywhere but here. "Wait!," I cry inwardly. But I neither voice the command nor have any idea what I would ask of him, or tell him, next. I feel these days as if they are a countdown, which I suppose they are. A countdown to his leaving home, to his being done with childish things. I have the sense that I have not imparted everything, or, in my more punishing moments, not imparted anything at all. I want to tell him about life, and love, and grief, and time, how it opens and closes, how it doesn't really obey the principles he's been studying in physics.

Even if I were to find the words, or believe that my experiences might be condensed into universal application, he is not, at seventeen, in a listening sort of mood. So I leave things unsaid.

We joke at the dinner table - at least we still eat together as a family - and in the pauses between the light banter I see that he and I are more alike than I'd ever guessed. We catch each other's gaze in moments of mutual understanding, and I know that he likes who I am and trusts what I think. (Of course I feel the same about him, but that's less of a surprise, for the obvious reasons.)

That will have to be enough for now. There will be no heart-to-heart conversations. Idly I wonder if girls and their mothers have these, or whether adolescence trumps gender in this regard.

I miss him already. No one told me about this, the pain that arrives even before they leave to start their own lives. Is it possible that experiencing what I am now is preparing me to handle the actual leavetaking with stoicism and grace?


When my mother dropped me off at college, she drove onto a pathway on the main quad, a pathway meant for foot traffic only. I was mortified. A group of my fellow freshmen was clustered near the door to my dorm as I emerged from the car red-faced with shame and rage at my mother's incompetence. At that moment I wished desperately for her to disappear. Later that day when we said our goodbyes I was nonchalant, surprising myself by not crying. But as I watched her car crest the hill at the end of the street, I swallowed back a lump of sudden pain and whispered, "Come back."

I was, like all seventeen-year-olds, overwhelmed by the variety of feelings I seemed capable of having, feelings that seemed external to me, even foisted on me, like the weather.

And now I think: as my own seventeen-year-old brushes by me on his way to anywhere but here, I might try seeing him not with a mother's eyes but with the eyes of the seventeen-year-old I was in 1985.


Emily said...

So, so often we see our kids through the eyes of who we were then. That's a good thing.

Mary Gilmour said...

Mother of girls that I am, I am not sure that girls are different in ther flying the nest. I know I embarrassed them. I know watching them flap their wings on the edge of the nest, back turned to me, hurt. I recall being scolded and criticized.
I also know that somewhere in their university years things turned around and if I produced receptive silence, especially if I were driving them somewhere, we connected.
In my limited-to-girls experience, the character of the kid is the most important thing in determining how the connection will go. I have one reticent daughter and one who tells me things I might prefer not to know. One adult daughter who treats me much as she would a close friend and one who relies on me in tough times but conducts her daily life in silence, mostly.
You are a superb communicator and I figure that after the wing flapping stage is over for them, you will be a. Rey big part of their lives.

Mary Gilmour said...

That was supposed to say 'very'.

Veronica said...

I am in the thick of this, with one who did not go to college as expected but who dared to step out into real life with a job and a live-in girlfriend and bills and fears. I have borne my son's leave-taking with some odd mixture of grief and relief and pride, but when my daughter (now 17) leaves, I will be lost. She and I are very, very close.

The hardest thing for me now is recognizing that parenting really does end. I had it in my head that it would change but I would still parent, just in a different way. I see now that when they leave, when they partner with someone, you stop parenting and start observing and waiting to see what your place will be in their life because that decision is theirs, not yours.

All that I'm going through lately has me thinking I need to start writing again, start blogging again, because this stage of life needs my voice (and yours).

Christine said...

These children of bittersweet it is to watch them grow and spread their wings.

kim said...

your posts always make me cry!

Susan said...

What you have written here is lovely, and so true. It seems as if you are in my home and in my head, which makes me feel a little less forlorn about it all.