They just don’t get it, do they? Young adults do not understand the anxiety a parent feels when they move out of the family home. They are flushed with the enthusiasm of new possibilities. They yearn for freedom. Freedom away from their parents and the freedom to make their own choices as they grasp onto the responsibility of sculpting their own lives. They want to go. They want to move forward. They want to embrace new experiences and seek excitement however and wherever they can. This is as it should be. I rationally understand. My emotions, though, are not based on intellectual reasoning.
My children are moving out of state to attend different universities. My eldest will be attending graduate school over 1400 miles away and my youngest will be doing undergraduate work over 450 miles from home. They have both done well in school and are focused on continuing their academic pursuits. I know they make sound decisions and good choices. I am proud of their accomplishments thus far and realize they are able to move onward into adulthood. The price of this pride is bittersweet. It is also fraught with parental concern. Will they be safe? Will they continue to make conscientious choices? Will they remember to check their bank balances and take their vitamins? Will they have enough food to eat? Will they experience hardships and heart breaks? Again, this mother asks, will they be safe?
As I look at them – these young adults – I still glimpses of my little girl and my young boy. I clearly remember the hours spent playing with my girl and her impossibly small Polly Pockets. I remember being “Captain Hook,” holding the hanger in my arm to appear like I had a hook, as I chased Peter Pan and Tinkerbell around the living room. I remember early morning greetings of snarls and growls because had I read, Where the Wild Things Are, before bedtime the previous evening. The snarls would then change to large smiles as I was firmly hugged by toddler arms. I remember watching the movie, “Batman and Robin,” (the awful version, with George Clooney, who sported that ridiculous Bat Suit with the weird bat-nipples) multiple times. I gladly suffered through this film because my boy would sit on my lap, with his Batman and Robin action figures in each hand, and snuggle close to me as the frightening Mr. Freeze appeared each time onscreen.
My children are young adults. They are not children anymore. They cannot comprehend that I still see small clues that allude to their youth. They have changed physically into young adults and yet they have the same smile, the same dimples, and the same color of eyes. Their laughs, though deeper, still sound so similar. I tell myself that now is the time I need to let them go but I know this is not entirely true. I will never be able to completely let go of either of them. They are my own. The unconditional love that began at birth is forever entrenched deep in my heart.
I know that I will worry and fret. I will lift up intentions and prayers for protection and wisdom. I definitely do not want my concern to be interpreted as nagging or complaining. I made a promise to myself that I will offer advice only when asked. I will try to navigate this empty-nest syndrome with grace and aplomb. As they become more independent, I, too, will need to redefine my life; my expectations of myself as a mother, a wife, and a woman are evolving. It is an exciting time of change for all involved. It is also somewhat scary and unsettling. Change, which can cause discomfort, is necessary for personal growth.
The passage of time, as my life transitions, has reached a pinnacle moment of clarity for me. I have fulfilled my parenting responsibilities as a mother who teaches her young how to survive and hopefully thrive. My role as the primary caregiver is diminishing but not disappearing as I shift to a secondary support position. This is as it should be and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.