A few pearls of wisdom from a mom watching her son move out and far away…
Take care of your body. Eat vegetables. Use sunscreen. Drive defensively. Drink moderately. In other words, please take good care of this person that I have protected for the past 20 years!
Take care of your brain. Eat vegetables. Read books. Keep learning. Drink moderately. In other words, please take good care of this person you have created for the past 20 years!
Don’t let anyone change who you are.
Life is long. You don’t have to get everything done right away, or accomplish everything quickly. What goes around comes around -eventually, the good guys win and the bad guys learn – it just takes time and patience.
Life is short. Don’t waste your time on people or things that drag you down, that hurt you, that stop you from being happy.
Don’t let anyone make up your mind. You don’t have to think like everyone else. The world’s greatest minds have often been independant thinkers with their own ideas, who didn’t allow themselves to be drawn in to a way of thinking just because it was popular. Be careful of small minded people.
The world is huge. Many people have not had the chance to see the world like you, to experience 4 cultures, live on 2 continents, to be immersed in 4 languages, and to travel extensively. It is possible you will encounter people who live in their small corner of the world and think they know everything. They don’t. You don’t.
The world is small. The theory states all people in the world are linked by 6 degrees of separation only. No matter how far you travel, you will never really be away from home, because you are always home.
Avoid intolerant people. It is always easier to judge an entire group than to try to understand. Very few arguments can be won against someone who has made up their mind to be racist, sexist, homophobic or generally prejudiced. You cannot convince someone with words. But you can win by keeping your own heart and mind open and not letting generalizations influence how you see others.
Choose love. This sounds silly but it’s the truth. If you can’t decide betwen two options, choose whatever is kinder, more tolerant, nicer, more fun, or will lead to more happiness.
I know you are probably ok because this is not the first time you do this. In fact, since you finished school a few months ago and make the decision not to go to university, you took a big step toward claiming your independence.
I support this, because I remember.
Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine, but I was once 20 years old. And believe it or not, it’s not that long ago. Photos were not in black and white, we were not using a well to get drinking water, and yes, women did have the right to vote. Life “back then” was not much different than it is now.
So I know what it’s like when you are finally “free”. Free of the daily ritual of waking up early, dragging yourself to school, studying, doing homework, doing chores to keep your parents’ home clean and eating the boring healthy meals your parents make, at the ungodly hours they choose to serve them.
I actually remember that I had less stress in those first months of freedom than I had felt during my adolescence.
So I know you are almost certainly not lying bleeding in a gutter downtown, or locked up in a jail cell after getting innocently caught up in a drug deal gone wrong, or asleep on the train halfway through Italy because you forgot to wake up before your stop.
But I want you to consider something.
Consider the lego game you built, piece by piece, when you were 8 years old. How many hours you spent creating it, fixing it, correcting it, getting it just right. Consider the project you completed in high school that took you months of preparation, research, writing and revising. Consider that time you saved your money for weeks and walked to the store to buy those mini cupcakes for the girl you liked.
Then consider someone takes these things and casually tosses them aside, unthinking, telling you it’s none of your business what happens.
I know you are not lego. But in a way, I have built you. Piece by piece. I held you for hours and paced back and forth and back and forth with you asleep on my chest in the baby carrier, in my small dorm room while I studied for my exams. One false move or sudden noise and you would wake up and the study plan was finished.
I changed my plans for you. I didn’t go out with the girls that night when the babysitter cancelled, I called in sick for work when you threw up on me in the morning before school, I put my book down when you asked me for help with your homework, I turned the tv off and brought you a glass of water in bed when you called out that you were thirsty and wanted to talk.
I could have lived on sandwiches and fast food, I was pretty young then too. But instead I went to the grocery store and bought vegetables that I knew you would hate and found recipes that you could tolerate and made balanced meals and convinced you to eat them, when I would much rather have just had kraft dinner and ice cream. I said no to cartoons when I was dying of fatigue after working the night shift and would have loved to lie down and ignore the world, and I took you outside to play on your new bike instead. We went shopping and we walked by the store with the women’s fashions that I craved, and walked into the hobby shop so I could buy you pokemon cards. I took you to London and instead of going to the Mamma Mia show I got tickets to the Lion King.
I thought about your brain a lot: I read books to you, and evaluated tv shows and movies before you watched them. I took you on trips so you would see the world and we ate a lot of pizza in Italy.
Basically, I feel I have put all my heart and soul into “building” you – even though I know I didn’t create the building blocks, I put them together, I protected them, I nurtured them, I allowed them to grow in a safe and happy environment. And all this at great sacrifice to myself.
And I know it was the right thing to do, so I don’t regret any of it.
But I do feel resentful. Because now some guy has shown up and stolen all this away from me. Everything I have known for the past 20 years has been swept away, out of my control. And the problem is, you are that guy. You are the guy who has taken my son away from me. So I resent you. And apparently you resent me for trying to hold on to you. So we’re both in a tug of war to control you, and of course I know that you have more rights over you than I have, but I still don’t trust you because you haven’t had the years of experience taking care of you that I have. In fact sometimes you even have not been very nice to you. Your track record is sketchy, admit it. Remember when you said you didn’t want to wear a raincoat or boots even though it was pouring out? Or gloves in the -20 degree winter? Remember when you secretly ate almost all your halloween candy and had a really sore stomach? Remember that time you didn’t do your homework? You really want to put your life in that guy’s hands?
So, basically, I am trying to make sense of it, and I want you to be independent, but I’m struggling with trying to figure out how to act. It feels like walking on glass sometimes, because I know at any moment I might accidentally slip into mom-mode and do or say the wrong thing. Like, I might ask how the job hunt is going. Or what you did last night. Or what you ate. I’m generally very interested in knowing what you ate. I sometimes surreptitiously glance at your waist and try to see if you have lost weight.
I know, on a deep, instinctive level, that you want me to let go completely and allow you to figure it all out. But here is what I am worried will happen if I do:
-you will get very hungry
-you will be outside in the freezing cold without warm clothes
-you will be hurt by dangerous people
-you will fall prey to a cult
-you will take drugs or drink too much to numb the fact that you are cold, hungry etc, or just because you think it will be fun
-you will go swimming in the lake and drown
-you will be kidnapped
-you will catch a cold which will turn into bronchitis then pneumonia and you will die
-you will have symptoms of a serious illness that you will ignore and you will die
-you will play video games for hours and forget to eat like that guy in China and then you will die
– you will spend the next year or two aimlessly working odd jobs or wandering around penniless and when you finally decide to go to university it will be too late because you will have a girlfriend or wife and maybe a couple kids by then so you will be stuck in a dead end job.
-you will not have a girlfriend or wife or couple of kids because you will just keep wandering around penniless
-you will turn 50 someday and resent the fact that your mom didn’t force you to eat properly and go to university when you were 20.
So, when you wake up this morning, or afternoon more likely, and you remember how much fun you had last night and consider your options for today, please take a moment to send me a brief message so I know you are at least alive. It tends to put a damper on my day when I have doubts about that.
Your mom who woke up at 4:30 and checked your empty room, the front door, her phone and stood looking out the window for 15 minutes.
Ok so here is my message in a bottle question, I am writing it down on this little scrap of laptop and tossing out into the ocean of internet.
What’s a mom to do?
My teenage son did not want to come on vacation with us. Should I have insisted? The photo above is from a vacation a few years ago, where he is clearly having a ball and we are strengthening our mother-son bond.
I know, right, why in the WORLD would he not want to be with us, his parents, who have loved and taken care of him for years? It makes no sense. We are so incredibly cool and fun to be with, it is practically incomprehensible to me that he would not want to hang around with us. His friends cannot possibly be as interesting as me. Why just the other day I offered to help him study for his next history test! And I admit I was going a little overboard with the repeatedly asking if he has any clue whatsoever about a career path, so I have toned that WAY down, like, less than once per day.
When kids are little, they just want to be with you all the time. You put them in their bed and hug them for over an hour (or so it seems) and then slowly try to disentangle yourself from them and they cling to your hand like their very existence depends on it. When you finally manage to pry yourself loose they call out after you for one more hug, one more kiss, one more song, one more thing I have to tell you, one more anything and one more everything.
And let’s be honest, it’s a bit annoying. We are just about to start the next chapter on our book-that-has-taken-us-four-months-to-finally-start-reading and we already feel the days’ exhaustion nibbling at the edge of our minds, so we want to get into the book before it’s too late. We just want to sit down. We don’t want to talk anymore. We want silence. We don’t want to smile anymore. We want to be left alone.
Well guess what. Before you are done that book, suddenly the child grows three feet taller and his voice changes and he does not want you anywhere NEAR his bed, much less even consider crossing the threshold of the bedroom door.
The Window Of Opportunity for parent-child bonding has snapped shut like steel bars on a jail gate.
I may be over dramatizing a little bit.
So what do you do? You keep hoping. You see all these other families where the kids spend time with their parents and share feelings and have long talks and wonder, why can’t we be like those people on TV?
So you plan family vacations and rent a nice beautiful house the south of France thinking it’s going to be so FUN! We’ll do ACTIVITIES! Like walking in the French countryside and eating in little cafés and exploring the town markets!
And then the rotten child doesn’t want to come.
I mean, it’s not like I was going to make him play road trip games during the drive.
Well, not if he really didn’t want to.
Apparently he would rather stay home in our boring apartment with a big screen tv and wifi, all alone with no parents around to remind him when to go to bed and what to eat and when to get up in the morning.