I’LL ADMIT TO A BIT of melancholy. My son, my youngest, returned to college in Fargo on Sunday. I try not to think that he is 300 miles away to the west, just like my second daughter lives and works 300 miles to the east in Appleton, Wisconsin.
I realize they could live much more distant. Five hours by car in the big wide world is nothing really.
But to a mom accustomed to 26 years of direct face-to-face parenting, the switch to no children in the house is huge.
The funny thing is that I thought I’d adapted. And then, lo, the son returns home for three weeks of Christmas vacation and I get used to him being around and it’s kind of nice to hear that “Mom, can I have a hug?” It’s wonderful to rest my head against my boy, who towers above me. I didn’t mind washing his laundry or weaving around his belongings scattered upon the living room floor. I found myself planning meals based on what he might enjoy; one day I even made his favorite banana cream pie.
Yes, I rather spoiled him.
But not too much.
He accused me in one particular moment of being a helicopter mom. I try hard not to do that, to interfere, to suggest, to offer too much advice. But apparently in this instance I had. I suppose that is one of the toughest parts of parenting, realizing that sometimes lessons are better learned on their own. Miss a deadline and you suffer the consequences. Make the wrong decision and you have to deal with the outcome. Yet, steering our offspring from erring seems a natural parental response.
Our 18-year-old son, shortly before my husband and I left him in his dorm room on the campus of North Dakota State University in mid-August.
Prior to holiday break, I’d seen my son only four times since mid-August. And each time I noticed subtle changes in him which indicate growth in maturity and independence. He seems also to appreciate me more.
I continue to be impressed by his determination, his constant desire and drive to learn (often on his own), his focus, his discipline.
On numerous occasions, as he huddled over his laptop and a physics book these past few weeks, I had to remind him that he was on Christmas break and should, therefore, take a break from studying. But he seemed persistent in preparing for the physics exam he will soon take in an effort to test out of a class.
The afternoon he bounded down the stairs to tell me he made the dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA and that he’s six credits shy of junior year status going into his second semester at North Dakota State University, he was beaming and I wrapped him in a proud mama hug.
One of my all-time favorite portraits of my son at age 5.
In moments like that, I gaze at him and wonder how nearly 19 years could have passed already. Since birth he’s been his own person, the biggest baby in the hospital at the time weighing in at 10 pounds, 12 ounces. He walked at 10 months. He was putting together 100-piece puzzles by age four. Legos were his passion. He taught himself all about computers. He taught himself to yo-yo and then how to unicycle and then yo-yoing and unicycling together. Now he’s learning juggling.
His quest for knowledge seems unstoppable.
A current image of my son in the new eyeglasses he got over Christmas break. Note that these are the try-on frames, which explains the writing on the lens and the tag on the bow. I think the frames fit his personality and age him, in a good way.
The movement of time is also certainly unstoppable and I am reminded of that nearly daily, but especially when I consider the growth of children.
While my son was sleeping in this past Saturday morning, I was waiting in a check-out line behind a young father, his first-born cradled in a car seat in a shopping cart. To pass the time, with the father’s permission, I began interacting with his six-month-old roly-poly baby. Jacob smiled and cooed and “talked” in that charming baby way that melts a mother’s heart. And I couldn’t help but advise the new dad to cherish these moments because, before he knew it, his boy would be all grown up, just like mine.
TELL ME, ONCE our children leave home, do we ever truly stop missing them?
AND FOR THOSE OF YOU who have lost children too soon, how do you honor them, hold close their memories, even cope?
© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling