Monday, December 5, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

I’ve always said my goal is to put myself out of a job as a parent.  I want to raise responsible (uggh, didn’t I use that word in my blog post yesterday?), self-sufficient children.  My kids are seventeen year old twin boys and a lovely almost-fourteen year old girl.  The day they leave for college I want them to be able to everything for themselves.  I vow never to be the mom who drives over to campus to drop off a load of freshly laundered and folded clothes and to pick up a basket of dirty laundry.  No, my kids know how to pre-treat and how to tumble out wrinkles when they forget to unload.  My kids know how to cook a frozen pizza (plastic and cardboard off, boys!), how to change a tire (so far they’ve gotten to do it in the dark, in the rain, and in the snow), and how to balance a checkbook (uh, oh .. one year left to teach that one).  They know how to shake hands firmly and look adults in the eye.  They know how to make a decision and live with the consequences.  I’ve sat on my Golden Parenting Throne and pitied the masses who send their children off without these basic skills, knowing I had done my job well.

Jenna, James, Jason - 2011
Here’s the thing:  I can easily give up the cooking, the driving, even the homework scolding.  What I didn’t realize would also be hard is the emotional separation that is inevitable during these same years.   When my six foot tall man-boys come home from their day’s adventures, I’m lucky to get a “Oh, hi Mom” as they breeze through the room.  What I want is for them to drop everything and tell me what was great about today, what was hard, and what made them laugh.  I want all the gritty details.  Instead, I learn more about their lives by eavesdropping on their conversations than by chatting with them directly.  Just yesterday I learned one son had broken up with his girlfriend three days ago  and never once thought to tell his dear ‘ol mom.  The other was invited to a statewide academic competition, but doesn't want me to attend.  Oh, a mother's angst!  The fact is, they're teenage boys who are breaking up with their mom.

James, Jenna, Jason - 1999
It’s normal, it’s natural, that a seventeen year old boy would NOT tell you everything about his day.  But this (nearly-adult) man that I need to give the space to develop his own life is also my newborn son sleeping in my arms.  He is my adorable-if-clingy two year old who would never leave my lap.  He is my five year old who ran home from school to tell me all about the wonderful kindergarten teacher.  He is my seven year old who drew me love notes every single day.  He is my thirteen year old who was nervous to go to his first school dance and mingle with the (gasp!) girls.  When I look at each of them, I cannot see them for simply who they are in this moment.  To me, they are always a strange conglomeration of all the ages they've been .. young and old at the same time.

Jason, Me and James - 1995
In my heart of hearts, I never thought I would actually have to let them go.  Now I know better.   They belong to themselves.  I have given them all that I can; the end of what I can do to influence the outcome of their lives is fast approaching.  They will make their own way in life and I must sit on the sidelines and wait for them to share with me.  No more pestering them for details, no more helping in their classrooms, no more knowing every detail about how they spent their time.  On the days that they choose to tell me all about it, the sun shines brighter, life tastes sweeter.  And on the days they choose to keep it all to themselves, my world dims just a little bit (OK, a lot).  

Me & Mom, circa 1981
Once I'm done looking wistfully back at a reality that used to be, I remember that I too must make my own way in life.    My years as “Mommy” are over and now I have three beautiful, successful teenagers to share my life with (albeit in a much more separated way).  More importantly, I have my OWN life to live and I'd better get busy.  And I also think of my own mother who is probably sitting at home thinking about me but giving me the space I need to live my life.  I think I’ll go give her a call.   


  1. It's so good to see a parent teaching their kids basic life skills. I think they get overlooked so often these days. Loved reading this!

  2. Yes, kids need skills. I still find it funny that I found myself a senior in college who's cooking was limited to pasta and scrambled eggs and frozen pizza. Just make sure you teach them all how to clean. I really enjoyed reading your response.

  3. Awww.... Ok, that's beautiful. you and I have a lot in common. I have all J's in my family, James and Jack. And I just went through the same thing, kind of. Mine was my youngest going into all day school for the first time. I felt empty. It's so hard to wrap your world around something in preparation to let it go. But obviously you are doing a fabulous job. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Oh, Wendy my friend, this post is beautiful. And those photos of your kiddos are adorable. I hope you let them read it sometime. Maybe when they're a little older.