A complete melt down transpired as our first little bird prepares to leave the nest. It totally caught me by surprise. We’ve been counting down the days for the last two months as he waited to take possession of his new home.
The hub and I talked about all the extra room that there would be in the house, no more dirty dishes and leftovers sitting and fossilizing in the basement. No more fine hairs from indiscriminent razor-shaking all over the downstairs bathroom.
And we speculated what we would do with all our extra money – the boy literally never stops eating. Our milk would now last for weeks, not days, and our grocery bill would plummet. Probably, we’d save enough to go on a tropical vacation every year!
But now the day is here and I feel. I don’t know what I feel, but I feel. It seems similar to when we gave the crib away after three kids and six years of use. Happy to move onto the next stage, but melancholy at the same time.
As I go up and down our stairs helping load boxes into the truck, I think about how many times I have gone up and down those same stairs. A million – but never, ever with this purpose – never to move a child out of the house. It feels weird.
I stop and sit by myself in his half empty room. I lie on his bed, void of the familiar comforter, stripped of his sheets – yeah – he really needs a new mattress – the coils give way and the bed wraps around me like a hammock. I look at the pictures on his walls, awards in frames and momentos on his bulletin board. A lifetime of memories of time flood my brain.
He is put into my arms for the first time and I know I was put on this earth to be his Mom. I bring him to pre-school and he bangs on the door to get out, while his sister simultaneously bangs on the other side of the door to get in. We are camping and while he has packed his own bag, he forgets to bring it and spends the entire weekend in the same clothes and he doesn’t even care. He is playing with paper animals for hours in the basement with his sisters.
More memories come as the years pass through my head in minutes.
He gets busted speeding on his first day with his license. He is in the driveway washing his first car with pride. He graduates. He falls in love. He enters his dream profession.
I am exceedingly happy for him that he has his great career, his great girl and his great house. The overwhelming emotions are happiness and gratitude and pride. He is moving out for a good reason, not a bad one.
He’s moving an hour away, not a province away.
I have two other kids at home, still plenty of drama to be had.
I have a full life outside of my kids, my own life. I will not be bored, or lonely or unfulfilled.
So can someone please explain to me why I feel like … this? Like my stomach is being twisted inside out, like my heart’s been pierced, like my head is full of bees.
I am so mad at myself for this ridiculous behaviour. I want to slap myself upside the head. “Stop it,” I say to myself as I try to shake these unexpected and unpleasant emotions away from myself.
I make a post on Facebook; FB answers all my questions, it solves all my problems. And it does on this day as well, as many parents share their stories to support me.
Someone please explain to me why I feel like … this, I post.
Answers come. Advice comes. Understanding comes.
“It does get easier… and you’ll get to fall in love with your baby and his new life all over again”
“Be gentle with yourself. What you are feeling is normal … and with time you will have a new normal without him at home.”
“Our children start out lying so close to our heart that we connect to them like no others. When they become independent of us it is not unlike having our heart walk around on the outside of us in this big world. Love is risk … A piece of you is no longer under your heart, your wing or your roof.”
Yes, it does feel like my heart is outside of me.
And then this post – perhaps the one that impacts me the most:
“It’s the greatest Love in the world,” one women writes to me, “… to be able to love and let go! To know that you love them enough to be able to want them to fulfill their lives as they decide. Hold yourself softly and gently,” she says, “as your heart cries with the Love of a mother. Rejoice that you experience this Love.”
And so it is with things that are difficult. We often make them even worse by beating ourselves up. By not letting us feel what we need to feel and experience what we need to experience. We do not show compassion for ourselves when that may just be what we need the most.
My son sees me in a messy puddle of tears. He gives me a beautiful sympathetic look. He knows what I am thinking without me saying a word. He comes over and gives me a big, long, strong hug and he says the words I will never forget, “You did good.”
Then he gives me an old medal with a pony on it. Ha – I think I will cherish that medal forever. I did good. It will all be ok in a little while, but right now I have to experience this different kind of sad. This unusual sort of grief. And I must be gentle with myself as I navigate this new turn on my journey.
So to you, whatever turn in the road you are on, may I advise you as others have advised me: be gentle with yourself, let yourself go through the emotions, and know that a little self-compassion can go a long, long way.