My 22 year old son left home today and while I’m happy to see him go out into the world and establish his independence, I am really going to miss that kid. He’s a very capable young man and I know he’ll be just fine. It’s me I’m worried about!
I have been Aaron’s mum virtually all of my adult life. I was just 18 when I gave birth to him and I can count on one hand the number of nights he has spent away from home. From the moment he was born, I’ve built my world around being a mother and I’m wondering, who am I now that my parenting duties have been restricted to a casual job? I’ve been demoted!
There are lots of parenting sites offering information on how to parent children and to a lesser extent, teenagers. But the experts have virtually nothing to offer about the transition from parenting a child, to parenting an adult. It’s not like you stop being a parent as soon as your child turns 18.
It’s a very difficult transition. It begins even before they hit puberty. Aaron was still in primary school when he decided to limit my affections to just one peck on the cheek at bedtime and the occasional hug (only on special occasions). As he grew older, the list of unacceptable mum behaviours grew very long indeed. What was once considered to be an act of good parenting, was suddenly re-branded as ‘interference’. I soon learned that if he needed my help he would ask for it and if he didn’t ask for it, as his mum I should have known he needed my help. But God help me if my mum radar happened to be a little off that day and offered help when it was not required!
I know it’s hard growing up. But what young people need to understand is that it’s an adjustment for mum and dad too.
I do have a younger child. Cameron is 18 and for the past couple of years he has been dividing his time between my house, his father’s house and his paternal grandparents. He drops by whenever he likes (usually when he’s out of money or he wants to use my computer). Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid. But a visit from Cameron is like having a tornado tearing through my house once a month! He is one of those larger than life characters who would be well suited to a career in television as a game show host. Now that Aaron will no longer be here to maintain that delicate balance between the child who is an introvert and the child who is an extrovert, the universe is out of balance and so am I.
It’s ironic how for so many years I was looking forward to the day when I could live life on my own terms, without having to factor in the needs of my two children into every decision I make. Now it’s here, I have no idea what to do with all this freedom. The only upside I can see at the moment is that come next summer, I can walk around the house in just a t-shirt and undies while singing Celine Dion’s version of “All By Myself” at the top of my lungs – very sad indeed.