My firstborn has called several times since college started, when he chooses, and just to chat. I never know when his number will pop up on my cell, but it’s every few weeks or so, and always a pleasure.
I told myself there would be no “helicopter parenting” from afar – and I’ve long since loosened those apron strings. And how did I leave things when we parted?
It was with a breezy “call me now and then, so I know you’re alive,” as I left him – 900 miles away in his new life.
There’s been very little contact since I moved him into school, and honestly, I haven’t been worried. But I am surprised at how deeply I miss him. I had grown accustomed to his brother being gone for long periods of time, but not my “little one” – who is certainly no longer little.
Hello, Empty Nest? You weren’t supposed to hurt this much!
Fortunately, I’ve had the pleasure of some charming company in the vicinity. While it has involved a foreign language I don’t speak fluently (um, that would be “Guy Talk”), I admit, a delightful and very masculine presence has taken some of the sting out of this challenging time of transition.
Still, considering that my mysterious artistic kid caused more gray hair than his (seemingly) wilder brother, the lull (and ache) left by his departure is considerable. For one thing – there isn’t much chaos! Might I simply mention a 17-kid teenage sleepover in our cozy space? Or our months of Hell-Thru-College-Apps? Dare I even begin to tell the tales of the driving dilemmas, the kid who wouldn’t talk, the countless commotions over lost keys, and the boating accident just before the school year started?
You’d think the ability to begin reclaiming my life – for me – would be very welcome. And it is. But it’s also been an adjustment. And those goodbyes may be a somewhat different experience for single parents, to whom empty nest really does mean empty.
Certainly, the lessening of daily worry, the active where-is-he-now or what-is-he-up-to worry that occurs with kids of all ages, and worse (in so many ways) with teens – well, I don’t miss that. It isn’t that there’s no worry – but it’s more diffuse, and a growing sense that I’ve raised two boys who have good judgment and will take care of themselves – and those they call friends and loved ones.
About two weeks back I got a phone call for no reason whatsoever, from my younger son. He caught me by surprise, and out of curiosity, I timed it.
Four minutes during which he filled the air time with substance (not like the quiet kid he once was), told me he was doing well (though he sounded tired), assured me he was making friends (adjusting quickly), and that the work was incredibly hard (but very cool).
And then he asked how I was.
And he asked, like he genuinely meant it.
Not only was I Mom again, actively, for those four minutes – listening and asking questions, reading the register of his voice and assessing how he is – but he was concerned about me.
There are times our children surprise us by becoming exactly who we hope we’ve raised them to be.
I had to work to keep the emotion out of my voice – the appreciation for his asking, the genuine warmth in his voice, and I was proud of the kid who hadn’t slept in a considerable time, but took four minutes between classes to call.
To say hello.
To be my son.
And for those precious four minutes, for me to be his Mom.
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