If you follow our blog, you know that Danni and I each have a son that graduated high school in June. In September, although our boys picked different paths for this coming year, they both will be branching out into some form of adulthood. This alone is a big change for the family and especially mama. My son is off to university, and even though he will be only a short plane ride away, I have been dreading “move-in day” all summer.
He and I have really done this university journey together. I have helped with the applications and sent in the required documents. We’ve applied for residence, done the tours, and completed all the paperwork. Even though my husband was there supporting every decision and following along, this has really been a mom and son adventure. And I have to tell you – I am not ready for it to end. I know that once he is off, I need to step back. He will need to wash his own clothes when he runs out of underwear; change his sheets – oh god, I hope he changes his sheets; and vacuum. Ya right, who am I kidding?? No longer will I know what time he gets home, nor if he goes to class, has had a vegetable in the last week, or will I get to meet his new friends when they ramble in the door after football practice. I know letting go is going to be hard. And I know that he will need to be responsible not only for his grades and his eating habits but also for his morals, values and what kind of a man he wants to be. Of course, I always go back to “have I done enough?” Well – guess what sister? Whether I have or haven’t, my time is up!
So I have spent some time getting him (and I) ready this summer – both physically and mentally and I thought I would share my musings with you…
At the beginning of the summer, I spent some time thinking practically about what he DIDN’T know. I didn’t want the kid to get to university and NOT know how to separate his laundry for example. SO, even though I have made plenty previous attempts at getting my boys to do their own laundry, I conducted ANOTHER laundry lesson. Yes, I know there are plenty of you moms out there who got their kids off their butts when they were twelve and this is old (maybe shocking) news to you, but sadly not me. We covered separating clothes, water temp and load size and I handed over the laundry responsibility to him for the summer. Oh gosh – for a control freak, who does laundry every Monday and irons every Tuesday, this was a freakin’ nightmare for me. Watching the laundry pile up in his room – waiting for that moment when he was going to decide he could wait no longer and was forced to do laundry – nearly killed me. Let’s just say, I finally washed his towels because his brother was coming home from Africa after 5 weeks and they share a bathroom. And lets also just say, I will probably laminate some sort of “laundry cheat sheet” to send with him. I will also re-iterate that this is really being done for me – because who am I kidding?
The other thing that became very clear was that it was time for him to take on a full time job in order to have spending money for university. He has worked in the spring and summer since the end of grade nine, but now was the time to venture into the 40 hour work week. It was time to put in the hours, and with only two months of summer there was no time for vacation with the family. This was a tough one – but at some point these kids have to understand that while it is so awesome to have all the privileges of an 18 year old, they also have to “enjoy” the responsibilities of one. Time to build that bank account and learn to save. So – we relaxed on the beach and he stayed home and worked his 40 hour work week. Clearly, we are monsters.
OK. All I am going to say to the lovely ladies out there who like to shop – if you have dreams of the perfect shopping trip with your son to pick out the “just right” decor for his dorm – in the words of that famous Disney Frozen song, “Let it Go.” I have to tell you – this shopping trip was the most unsatisfying way to spend money I have ever experienced. My son wanted the BASICS and nothing more. For the record, I know I should be celebrating this. We hit Bed Bath and Beyond – who clearly have done this before. You can print out the list for your university and you literally walk around the store picking things like a gift registry with a store associate and one of those “scanner guns.” Once you have everything you need, with a click of a button it is sent to the store in the city you are going to, and is packed up and waiting for you when you get there on “move-in” day! Freakin’ amazing. They do this with dozens of kids a day and were super knowledgeable and ready to assist. Clearly, this is their fall season bread and butter and they do it well. We are shopping for clothes this coming week, and I am fully preparing myself for sideways glances, eye rolling, and general resistance.
Have you heard the term “soiling the nest?” I know – it sounds disgusting really. But when you think that we are preparing our little birds to leave the nest – I guess it sounds about right that there would be some soiling involved 🙂 I think for everyone this is different. I’ve been talking to many parents that have voiced their version of this. Some saying,”it feels really like they’ve been gone for awhile.” So the gist of it is that our kids start to pull away in order to make it easier for them to separate from the family. A “one foot out the door” mentality. In some cases, this involves unusual behaviour, a difference in their temperament, or unexpected outbursts – usually directed towards…well, I’m sure you can guess!! In other instances, it really just involves starting to spend less and less time at home and becoming more independent – within the safe walls of their home. I am thinking this is a super important step and I’ve been okay with it, but my sensitive, “talk about your feelings,” husband has taken it harder. He wants more time with our son and feels him slipping away. He responds often in irritation – I guess his version of soiling the nest. It is a good and bad scenario because of course we want them with us all the time, but we also want this transition to go smoothly and for them to be ready. For me, I find myself hovering around the nest and reading into everything. Every look, every comment, every text has me wondering. Does he need me more, does he need me less, is he scared, nervous, excited? Does he want to talk or not? Does he know he’s ready? I’m just Mama Bird. I can’t really verbalize it now, but once I have that moment – the one where we walk away and leave him – I plan to follow Marshall P. Dukes advice from a fantastic article on Huff Post, and write him a letter. I want to tell him all the things I was not able to with that lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
BYE BYE BABY
Perhaps to reassure myself that I am being as present as possible in these last days of being a complete family, I see myself starting to revert back to what I fondly refer to as my “baby rituals.” These are things I did for him when he was totally dependent on me for everything. I’m spending more time in his room, lingering (or some might say loitering) when he hangs in the kitchen with friends and making extra trips to the grocery store for little treats. I justify this to my husband as the “last chance to spoil him,” but I know its just my way of showing him how very much he is loved. I know he is ready – but am I?
In moments of quiet, when I sneak upstairs while he is watching Netflix, and he lets me scratch his back – a nighttime ritual carried from baby to middle age boy – I know he too is showing me how much he loves me. In his silent way, he is letting us know he will miss us too. Amongst the excitement and cool exterior, our baby bird is getting ready to leave the nest but he knows where home is.
It is these moments, not the shopping, the packing or the preparation, but the quiet ones, that will be etched in my mind long after the last bag is packed and his room left empty.
Bye bye baby bird…
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