We know, as parents, from the moment we give birth to a child, that this precious being is only entrusted to us for a time.
I knew one day that my child would leave. I knew that in my head…but didn’t ever think about facing the reality with my heart.
We raise our children with the intent of them learning and growing–to roll over, tie their own shoes, learn to read, make their own friends, bike around the block by themselves, drive a car on their own, all the time becoming their own person. Increasing their independence.
Parenting is loving our children enough to, very gradually, work ourselves out of a job. To have them not need us as parents, because we helped them to develop all the building blocks of being an adult on their own.
We want to position ourselves so as adults, our children only WANT us to be a part of their lives with ongoing relationship, connection and support, but they no longer NEED us to survive in this world.
I’d always hoped that I would give my Junior Tribe Members (JTMs) sufficiently nourished and healthy roots that they would have the stability to develop strong and capable wings. In order for children to launch well, they need a solid sense of stability and groundedness in who they are and where they come from.
It is one thing to plan and parent and dream for decades about the launch.
It is quite another thing to actually launch a JTM.
It happened to me last week. He moved out.
This isn’t for “while he is in school” for a semester. He’s gone…lives in his own home (albeit a 15 minute drive away).
It’s one thing to prepare a child to leave one day, and quite another to have that child actually leave.
It happened so suddenly. I knew it was at the end of the month, but the end of the month wasn’t until Sunday. On Thursday, I was busy moving boxes and shifting this and that. He asked to play a game with us…and I was hung up on getting some of my own end-of-the-month tasks done early. I put him off on the game.
I shouldn’t have. I’ll be regretting that for a long time.
He got up for work on Friday and said he would be with friends at his new home that night, and with family the night after. He had been gradually moving stuff for two weeks, but he let me know he had just spent his last night at home with me.
And just like that, it was over. My little boy is all growed up. And moved away.
It just seemed like it snuck up so fast.
It reminded me of a passage I read about in Jojo Moyes book, Me Before You:
The thing you never understand about being a mother until you are one, is that it’s not the grown man, the galumphing, unshaven, stinking, opinionated offspring you see before you, with his parking tickets and unpolished shoes and complicated love life. You see all the people he has ever been, all rolled up into one. I looked at Will and I saw the baby I held in my arms, duly besotted, unable to believe that I had created another human being. I saw the toddler, reaching for my hand. The school boy, weeping tears of fury after being bullied by some other child. I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history…the small child as well as the man. All that love, all the history.
So much of life is about learning to let go. That’s so hard to believe as a parent.
When you are raising a child, the never ending work of it all has it seem it will never end. I remember when he was an infant…I was up with him yet again, smelling his sweet softness, and in my exhaustion struggling to remember this son of mine’s name–I could remember what letter his name started with, but was stuck after that. There were many days when I thought I would never eat a hot meal again, never be in a parking lot with this little one without my heart in my throat at he constantly threatened to dash away from me. I remember him using all his toys as rocket ships and missiles…even the dolls flew through the air to destroy whatever they landed on. The crayons at the restaurant weren’t ever used to color quietly like the children at the next table…he would carefully unwrap the paper off one crayon after another, and after he created a huge mess of little shards of paper, he would, you guessed it, turn the crayons into little rocket ships and missiles to destroy whatever they landed on…maybe even the burger at the next table.
He climbed on top of the little sandbox house at the playground while the other children played quietly underneath it. I remember sending him off to school in Grade 2 with a wide bald strip on his head where I had forgotten to put the attachment on the razor…rather than have me shave the rest of him to match, he chose to try a “comb over” and wear a ball cap for two weeks to let some serious stubble grow in. Serious cuteness–and courage. The club he belonged to in junior high? They would phone to make sure he was coming…because when this JTM was coming, the leaders knew it was gonna be a blast for everybody. This was the boy that loved rooftops, biking down scary steep hills, and discovering yet another thing to blow up or light on fire.
There were long days of wiping and rewiping the table from play doh bits or cracker crumbs that it seemed it would NEVER end. Days of blow drying his little butt for the screaming wicked red diaper rash. Days of toilet training misses that signalled never ending moments of parenting. It seemed he would always be there, testing my patience and my nerves…and now he’s not.
And I miss him desperately…even being in the next room or downstairs with his ear buds in.
I know, I know…I’m grateful he’s alive and he came for lunch on Sunday…but it’s not the same. He won’t be living with me anymore…and I can’t remember what life was like without my JTM. Yes, many times he drove me crazy…there were times when I would have gladly given him away…even though I would, even then, have gladly given up my life for him.
The man that walked out the door…he was a man, but I also saw the infant, the toddler, the boy, the teen and the man…and I felt like all of them were walking out the door at once.
It’s good. I’m glad. But I’m grieving, too. Life is a series of hello’s and goodbye’s…and the goodbye’s are necessary losses.
And losses help us grow. Sheesh.
Just sometimes, I don’t feel like growing, y’know? 🙂
But at the same time, I’m fiercely glad that he’s growing…and grown.