Knowing My Sons a Little Less

Lisa writes: So this is it. The third and final time. Next week I will sit through my youngest son’s high school graduation. Like every parent in that audience, and in every high school auditorium and football field, I will burst with pride and more than a touch of sadness. We will have weeks and months before he leaves but experience has taught me that once he crosses that stage, once he takes his diploma in hand, he will begin to drift away. The first time this happened I wondered how I would survive. The second time I braced myself, knowing just how bad it would hurt. And it did. So now, I am girding myself knowing fully how it feels to have a child move on. Yet still I ponder why the pain is so sharp.

boys, sons

Parents who regret their children’s departure are chided for their hovering ways, reminded that they should be proud of their offsprings accomplishments and that clinging to their teens is both unhelpful and unseemly. In a wonderful excerpt from his biography, Rob Lowe brings this into focus,

Through the grief I feel a rising embarrassment. “Jesus Christ, pull yourself together, man!” I tell myself. There are parents sending their kids off to battle zones, or putting them into rehabs and many other more legitimately emotional situations, all over our country. How dare I feel so shattered? What the hell is going on?

I have berated myself for being a wimpy mom, the parent who cannot walk away without tears, the mother who misses her kids every day. I have given myself the stern talk about being overly attached to my sons and told myself a hundred times that it is not about me but about them. I decided that there must be something wrong with/missing from me or my life if saying good-bye was this hard. I have wondered, endlessly, why it hurts so much when they go.

Like so many aspects of parenting, this was a case of overthinking. It just wasn’t all that complicated.

The simple reason that it is so hard to let go of my kids is that the moment they walked out the door for nursery school, middle school, college or their “real life,” I will know them a little less.

They are beings I have loved even before they beheld their first breath. They have made my world bigger and brighter in every way. Being a parent has allowed me to see all of humanity through very different eyes. Speaking only for myself, it has made me a better person.

I will never love anyone more than I love my sons, so why would I want to know them any less? How is it possible that my life will not be diminished by their absence.

sons, boys

 

Experiencing the world without me began the first morning I left them with the nanny and went to work. As their school days grew longer and their experiences further afield, their separateness from me increased. It was all as it should be. The change was gradual and while it was easy to get wistful from time to time, each transition was seamless. Their lives took them on sleepovers and to the movies with friends, on trips further and further away, yet at each step they were ready. And I happily made do with the post-mortem.

If you asked me who in the world I know the best, my sons would be right at the top of that list. From the time they were babies I have understood the rhythm of their lives. I have known what would nourish their bodies, minds and souls. At times I have felt that I knew them even better than they knew themselves.

When they were tiny they seemed to speak in stream of consciousness, to filter almost nothing from my ears. By middle school they were more circumspect, sharing their world and their thoughts, but starting to holding back. And high school? I am not sure that any high schooler could or should tell their parents everything. So the walling off began, the natural and to be expected process of knowing them just a bit less.

And then they left home. They woke up one morning like they have thousands of other mornings and by nightfall they were gone. At first I told myself that it was like camp (my capacity for self-delusion appears to know no bounds) but after a few months I had to let go of this little lie and contend with the fact that college is leaving home.

The pain that comes with empty nest is partly just missing their joyous presence, the way our lives are filled with our love for them. But the real pain of the empty nest comes with the knowledge that no matter how close we are to them, no matter how much we stay in touch, as their lives diverge from ours we will know them that tiny bit less.

Every year they will have more and more experiences that we only know from photos and their retelling, and more experiences we never hear about at all.

The love for my children remains untouched as my knowledge of them is diminished, not in the big meaningful ways, but around the edges. Have they ever tried Paella? Who did they study with last night? Is that a cold coming on or just allergies? Did they work out this afternoon or blow it off and go out for a cheeseburger? They have professors I will never meet and friends I will never know. Now, I get a photo of something that strikes them as funny or strange, texts of random thoughts, and phone calls to catch up. But the day-to-day rhythms of their lives are their own.

boys, sons

But here is the thing. Nothing about them ever stopped being fascinating to me. I never found their recounting of their day any less interesting, nor felt less concerned about their well-being. They may have outgrown telling, but I never grew tired of hearing.

So why is it so hard to let them go? It isn’t that I wanted to hold them back or to play the role in their lives that I once did. It wasn’t that I needed them to need me. These are the three people I have loved beyond reason, have loved more than I ever knew was possible to love, and I just don’t want to know them even a little bit less.

graduation, cap and gown, college graduates

Comments

  1. Cara says:

    That was beautiful. I too have three sons that I am in awe of. I miss them terribly as they leave or are in the process of leaving. Raising children is the most glorious gift but also the most painful.

    • Karen says:

      Lisa, this is so beautifully articulated as I feel your words resonating through my soul. Lucas is graduating on Saturday . . and it’s impossible to describe this feeling. I’m not finished raising them. . . I want just a few more years of them being our little guys. . and I love knowing them as the terrific men they’re becoming.

      • Karen, such a pull. You have so much to be proud of with your wonderful young men, they are truly a credit to both of you.

    • Thank you Cara. You are so right a glorious gift!

    • Anonymous says:

      I wish I could have seem mine walk across that stage, He was killed in a car accident one month before his high school graduation. He was laid to rest in his cap an grown. He was only seventeen years old. That was in 1993. Still miss him so bad.

      • Robert says:

        I’m so sorry for your loss. That hurt never goes away. Bless you and bless him.

      • Anonymous says:

        My heart aches for you and I will pray for for your comfort. Deepest sympathy for your loss

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry to hear that..makes me feel as if we should stop whining about missing our sons..I guess everything is relative. Thanks for sharing.

        • laura says:

          Yes my heart so aches for you as well. I have two close friends who will never see their kids gratuate because they were taken too young also(cancer and car accident). They were the same age as my daughter, who will be graduating next year. i have read wonderful articles like Lisa’s and hope that when it is really happening to me next year, I will always hold these moms close in my heart and know that I have had my gift of daughters longer than they.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for posting. I can’t imagine your loss then or now, 21 years later.

      • Anonymous says:

        I understand your pain. My son was killed in a car crash in his senior year also. It’s almost 30years ago, but I still wonder how he would look in relation to his other two brothers, if he would be married,,so many ifs. Still missed and still loved.

    • Anonymous says:

      I had 2 sons 13 months apart. They grew up best friends as well as brothers. Unfortunately I didn’t get to experience the “empty nest syndrome”, I experienced grief from my 19 yr. old . He died after an airplane accident . So mothers who are hurting because your sons are alive and well at college think about why I hurt.~rab

      • Cindi says:

        Im so sorry for your loss, my son is still here and I cant imagine your pain. He goes to UNH for the weekend and I worry. He goes anywhere I worry but am getting better! I am so sorry you lost your baby.

  2. My oldest child graduates from high school next week. I thought I was ready for it, but the past few weeks have been very emotional. I definitely feel sad that I will know her less as she leaves. I know everything coming up is good and necessary, but it doesn’t take away that sadness for me. Thanks for writing this and validating that I’m not a hovering parent for feeling this way!

    • I wish you good luck and a dry handkerchief. Thank you for reading…one of the things I love best about blogs is reading my thoughts on another mother’s blog.

  3. renee says:

    completely and utterly beautifully written.

  4. Darn you, Lisa Heffernan! I was starting out this graduation day with a little bit of mascara and lot of resolve. This is beautiful. How did you find that one button? Yes, precisely: I don’t want to ‘have’ them, I want to ‘know’ them.

    • Because we have the same button, my friend. Best line: I don’t want to ‘have’ them, I want to ‘know’ them. Thank you.

  5. Lisa, beautifully said.

    I remember when my oldest son first came home from preschool and recounted his day- who he played with, what he learned, a funny story about a classmate. It was my first glimpse into a world that involved him without me, and it rocked my world.

    Today he starts driver’s ed…. I’m just trying to remember how to breathe.

    • Thank you Beth. Each step prepares, us, so we think, but I found nothing prepared me for them leaving home. But Rob Lowes, point is well taken, we are lucky when they find their way to wonderful things in their own lives. Mary Dell and I are here for you!

  6. happy outlook says:

    Lisa Heffernan, you have an amazing way of describing matters of the heart.

  7. WOW Lisa. That was awesome to read. Thanks for sharing. My ONLY child/son graduated two years ago from high school and been going to junior college for the past two years close to home. I’m grateful I was able to have him at home an extra two years. Here we are. Time for him to move off to college in August. I’m having a rough time.

    • Ahhh Carrie, we are here for you. It is a tough transition, all good, but lots of tugging at our hearts. Sounds like great news for him.

  8. Martha says:

    What a perfect depiction of what my heart feels with each and every departure.. While bursting with pride and KNOWING they are evolving into the adults they each are meant to be, it nonetheless takes a little piece of my heart each time. I too didn’t allow myself to fully acknowledge the significance of that departure day at college. Yet, these maturational changes and the separations are exactly as they should be. We mothers need big hearts to contain the pride and sadness and joy!!

  9. This is so true. It’s like a little death, and yet it sounds so melodramatic to say that. I’m glad to hear you’re surviving it. I have two boys and this to “look forward” to . . .

    • Thanks so much. Feel like a real wimpy mom, but really I don’t want to hold them back, just hate to see them go. Love hearing from moms coming up behind us.

  10. This appears to be so true and so sad. We worked so hard to have children and it is flashing before our eyes so quickly, it’s hard to see where time is going. I still have 2 years before my first graduates but I am already seeing what you are describing. I remember thinking something similar to this when my son turned 7, I cried and told my husband that 1/2 of my son’s non-driving life was already over…. Everyday moves more quickly and it is a scary day. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story, HUGS! <3

    • Oh Angel, thank you! The best thing about a blog is hearing other’s stories. Love hearing yours.

  11. shelley says:

    Bravo you nailed it. My son is a Marine and knowing anything about his life is off limits. He thinks I`m prying when all I want is to continue to know him. The process is incredibly painful and it is hard to to no longer have him a part of my daily life. I’m sure it will get easier but it took 18 years to raise him so it won’t happen overnight.

    • Shelley, thank you, wow, that sounds so painful. I am sure you are not prying. It really isn’t possible for our kids to understand, but the moms reading your thoughts do. I am genuinely grateful to you for sharing your story here.

  12. Sarah Hughes says:

    So easy to relate to this article very well written and very true!

  13. Laurel says:

    Yes! I finally now know why it is so hard because you just told me. You would think that as I am seeing my third of four graduate from high school next week and head off in the fall I would have figured it all out. Thank you so much. I may send this on to my oldest who has graduated from college a year ago and has her “big girl job” on the other side of the country (USA). I think this explains it perfectly and maybe she will be able to see me in a different light. A little more accepting and not so judgemental light.

    • Laurel, I wonder if they can understand, until they become parents! Love that, “big girl job”, smiling reading your comment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Laurel, I think sending this to your daughter is a wonderful idea. She may not be able to fully grasp the emotional bond a mother has to be child having carried, birthed & raised them, but she can certainly come to a more compassionate understanding of you. Both of my children are on their own and experiencing soulful lives and I can tell you from my experience, I always had a very close open relationship with both of them and it just keeps getting better and deeper as they grow up and have adult experiences. As I’ve always said, each stage of a child’s life is fascinating and I am so blessed to be a mother who experiences this!

  14. Carpool Goddess says:

    Oh, Lisa, this should come with a “have a tissue nearby” warning! I fooled myself into believing my kids going off to college would be like leaving for summer camp too. We do what we gotta to do, right?! So hard to wrap my head around the fact that these precious bundles of love that we give our heart and soul to and want to be with most, must leave one day. How do we do it? And multiple times. I miss the daily comings and goings and chatter of my kids the most. Sigh. Bring lots of tissues to graduation day. When the youngest crosses the threshold it’s a doozy. (Actually, I wasn’t much better with the oldest either.) I burst into tears the moment the procession started and Pomp and Circumstance began to play.

    • I got through the first two graduations, lost it when they left home, each time they left home. I try not to cry in front of them and once one of my sons forgot something and ran back and found me in a flood of tears, so much for that secret!

  15. So beautiful. I love reading your work because it gives me a glimpse as to what will come in the years ahead. Like you, I love learning about my kids and all that they do. While I know they will leave the “nest” eventually, I hope we will continue to have a special relationship. Congrats on sending off three young men into the world. :)

  16. Mandie says:

    You described my feelings perfectly, thank you. I’m crying hysterically right now because you said how my heart feels, not just about my own boys but my brother as well.

  17. Sandy says:

    Yes! I have been working through my grief over my eldest leaving next year by reading women’s posts about their experiences. This is exactly why I am so sad! I’m so happy to have found you two abd your blog. It gives me even more confidence that I can do this and that I’m not fundamentally flawed fir feeling as I do. Thank you. ❤️❤️

  18. Stacey says:

    You have captured EXACTLY what I have been feeling this past year, as my oldest just finished his first year of college. I too have three boys, and know that I have to go through this again soon, two more times. It’s at least some comfort to know that I am not feeling these feelings alone…this piece seems to have struck a cord with so many. Not sure if anyone can read this without a box of tissues beside them! Thank you, Lisa, for such a beautiful piece!

    • Thank you Stacey. I could not put my finger on it either for the longest time and was making things far more complicated than it is. So glad to have your thoughts here.

  19. Ron says:

    Great writing, powerful incite and most importantly a piece of raw reality of Parental unknowns. It’s never discussed in the Parenting books you read through as you children grow. We learn how to manage, coop and the morning that comes as they age. I noticed that no Father’s have responded? I have two boys; 1 a Sophomore in college and a Sophomore in high school. We experience this just slightly different. These young men were my best friends and now they have others to talk with, experience new discoveries with. I was always the teacher while learning myself. Teaching them to be independent and strong men. We push them away to be strong and unafraid while hoping against hope that they run back to our arms for safety and love. The missing word in you blog is that this really does suck! Waiting for the next phase of our relationship: guidance, advice, wisdom and helping them move into their first home is exciting yet even more haunting. I am selfish for them. What will I become? I want my students and best friends back. The adjectives are many but nothing is more appropriate to a Father than: THIS SUCKS!

    • nicolette says:

      I completely agree . . . this does suck. My son is about to graduate and begin college and the Army (ROTC). I cry every day, just a little, because I know that our relationship will change forever and there is nothing I can (or really want to) do about it. If we have done our job right, they leave. This is the worst kind of job satisfaction. This blog is spot on and I thank you for it.

      • Thanks Nicolette and Ron. In the simplest language you have summed it up. I don’t worry so much about our lives, still so much to do, so many experiences and challenges ahead. But, those we love so dearly will be missed.

  20. Ron says:

    I hate the way my software chooses words for me. Wrong context, wrong words! Correction: COPE not coop, mourning not morning. Sorry

  21. All life transitions are hard, aren’t they? Blessings….

  22. Oh my. Gutted by your beautiful words and perspective. And it’s only the end of elementary school we’re dealing with this time. My girls are grown and married and living out of state. But my boy who took six years to be…? I’m usually that tough mom, sad but proud, delighted by and eager to observe the next chapters…I’ve been preparing myself with a life of my own…but maybe it’s because I sense how hard it will be to know my sweet, sensitive boy a little less. Ugh!

    • Kim, sorry about being gutted, but so so so glad you shared your story will us. I love hearing how each of us ends up at the same point from so many different different places.

  23. I have watched my two children grow up and leave home, one to Afghanistan and the marines and the other to marriage and college. They were both hard but something that had to happen. I have to admit my son surviving the war made it a little easier the second time around. Mostly because I could still pick up the phone and visit the second time. It’s hard no matter what and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Just means you’re and awesome mom!

    • Rena, thank you thank you. Your are a heroic mom and your story adds so very much here, thank you. Truly the rest of us are in awe of you.

  24. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Lisa, your beautiful words resonate with me. With each of my three children I experienced exactly that: missing the day-to-day check-ins, the updates about their French tests and the funny thing their best friend said and the traffic getting to school. The little, unimportant things that meant they were still part of my daily life.

  25. Donna Jarecki says:

    Well, I have been looking for the words to describe this pit in my stomach that grows ever larger with each passing moment and you have so perfectly represented my fear, “knowing him a little less”. It’s the sparkle in his eye when he laughs and the dimples in his cheeks when he smiles, and that “hey momma” that I get everyday when he gets back from lacrosse. My heart will be lonely for him bc once he walks out the door he will never come back the same. I will have to share him with the world and although he is ready to fly, the put in my stomach is screaming to turn back the time. I am so very grateful that he never pushed me out of his life and that we took this journey together. As he is my first, I always reminded him there were to paths to take and that this road was new for me too. He chose the one that kept me involved and we are closer for it. He makes me proud everyday!
    He’s my Xan!!!!!!

    • Oh Donna, right there with you. It is the little expressions, the “hey momma” that each of us holds in our heart. That little code, the shorthand between each mom and child, that we fear being pushed aside with their absence. Who knew this would be so hard. Thinking of you and Xan over the coming weeks, good luck to you both!!

  26. Le says:

    Very beautiful and very moving. Thank you.

  27. Debra says:

    I have been following your writing for months and you are always writing what I seem to be thinking but can’t quite articulate. I also have three boys, with my last leaving in a few months and all I can say is thank you.

    • Debra, that is so heartwarming. It is so easy to feel like we are experiencing something alone, but we are not. So glad you are here with us!

  28. I am with you all the way! I both enjoy my daughter more now as a 21 year old and recent college grad, and miss her more as I know that while she’s home now, when she next goes away, it will be for “good.” waaa haaa and yay at the same time.

    • This really is the definition of bittersweet, isn’t it. So grateful that they are standing on their own two feet, that they have become the wonderful adults that they are, but… Thanks, Kymberly

  29. Heather says:

    Such a beautiful post. I have three kids, two boys. My boys are five and one and there are many hard days that I wish for them to grow up so it will be easier. This post reminds me to cherish everyday, to get wrapped up in their youth and love knowing that they love me more than anyone else in the world right now. I know that will change in it makes my heart hurt. Thank you for the reminder :)

    • Heather, what you are describing is all that we can do…but so hard to remember. Love hearing from moms of young kids, thank you for posting.

  30. Kim says:

    I need tissues!!!! I too have 3 boys and my youngest is graduating this year from high school. But at least he will be staying at home going to college this next year. The one thing is that my other two boys have moved back home but are getting ready to move out this final time. I can only imagine what my house will sound like when they all leave. But I will be crying my eyes out as my son get up to speak ( class president) on his graduation day. I am so blessed to be called their mom and God as honored me with such joy.

    • Huge congratulations to your son, what a lovely moment to hear him address his class. The quiet, something three boys make us long for, is going to be deadly!! I wish you good luck and thanks so much for sharing with us, truly appreciated.

  31. Anonymous says:

    A loving mother, as you are, will always feel the connections you just stAted. My Mother-in- law always told me, especially when I was in the te if my life as you are now, that you have to give your children wings so that they can fly so at some time they will be able to fly back. I know how you are hurting now .

  32. Dale says:

    You SO hit the nail on the head. That is the reason for the profound sorrow. It’s 2 boys and a girl for me but you really made a lightbulb go off in my head

  33. My oldest of 3 boys will be off to college in the fall, leaving behind his 16 and 15 year old brothers. I really enjoyed reading this article, as it so eloquently stated how we moms feel at this stage. I really loved raising them, I really love the men they are becoming, and I cannot imagine what my life will be like as they move away. I am excited for them as they move on, but am completely stumped by what my future may entail. I know it will be great for all of us. After all we have been through together – including a terminal diagnosis for my middle son- it is as much a dismantling of our combat unit which has been in the trenches together for years, as it is a natural progression for our family. At least I know they can handle anything that comes their way, and they know that we are always here for them. That you for such a terrific article!!!

    • Nadia, thank YOU for your wonderful story. One of the big surprises for me when my eldest son left what how hard it hit my younger sons. Like your three they are close in age, and were always together. I wish you good luck and hoe your “combat unit” stays close.

  34. I think I need to stop reading your posts – I’m always crying lately! Today was my oldest son’s last day of high school and I have been a wreck. I had the same thoughts that Rob Lowe wrote about – what is wrong with me? It’s just college? But you hit the nail on the head – I won’t ever know him the way I know him now and even that is so much less than I used to know him. I love hearing about my boys’ days and their random thoughts and stupid jokes. I can’t imagine not being privy to all of that every day.

    • Connie, a mom after my own heart. It is all so trivial, but it is the beauty and richness of our lives with them. So hard to give up. Thanks for sharing here.

  35. Jennifer says:

    Yes, this is exactly how I think it feels. Beautiful post!

  36. Sandy says:

    My youngest son (of 3) will be graduating high school in less than one month – the following month will going into the United States Air Force. Reading this article really touched my heart and said everything I felt.

  37. Oh my. Every word of this is so beautiful. Every word. I’m teary eyed reading it. And your image of the three of them as young men walking away? That’s an “ah shucks” photo that any mother wants to hold to her heart. Thank you so much. What a very touching piece. Again; oh my.

    • They yelled at me when I took that, “Mom why are you taking pictures of us and why from the back.” Couldn’t explain that it is a mom metaphor, one day they may understand. Thank you Barbara.

  38. Elaina says:

    I needed this today. As I am sitting at work, I can’t get my mind off the impending graduation that is coming up next month. And I couldn’t quite express how I was feeling. This is it. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you too Elaina. I have done one of the two graduations I have this year. Both better and worse than I expected, good luck.

  39. You spoke my heart!! I have two daughters, one is en route this very minute to Malawi for a mission trip, one is thinking of returning to our home state – far from me. Both wonderful young ladies who I love being with and am still getting to know each day as they venture into adulthood. I know I have to be without them some day, I just don’t want that day to happen any time soon – for my sake. But for their sake, not soon enough.

    Thank you so much for finding the words for me. I too berated myself. Now I give myself permission to want to keep them and want to let them go at the same time.
    The hardest thing to do is to hold that door open for them when what you really want to do is close it and keep them home with you.

    • Kathy I think you speak for so many of us. We truly do not want to hold our kids back, but we do want to hold them. Good luck and thank you for sharing here, it means a great deal to us.

  40. I have a friend with an almost 3 y/o and while being delighted by him, she asked me if he made me want another child. No, I’ve never wanted another child, I just wanted a little more time with the children I have and love. I think people who have new children to recapture that are misguided because each person is so unique and the next child will be wonderful and magical in his or her own way, but it won’t be the same.

    I think it’s a testament to the joy of parenting that it is difficult to let it go and your article is beautiful in capturing why. My son is finishing elementary school next week, and on the surface that may seem small, in reality he almost died three times before his third birthday and his odds of surviving to start school were not great. Yet, I still feel the same thing – the tearing away and the cold sting of what’s missing with each new phase of independence. This (below) is what I wrote on my facebook page last weekend, and I think what you’ve shared here needs to be heard long before the nest is empty because the pain starts early. Lovely and well done. Congrats on raising fine young men!

    Because of Memorial Day, tomorrow is the last Monday of the school year. It is the last monday of elementary school for Liam.

    The week before he started Kindergarten, we were in the post-op room at the (then still very new) Children’s Hospital Colorado and a nurse was literally on top of Liam with a sandbag on the bed pressing down on his femoral artery because he was bleeding out after a cath and was dry heaving. That was just days before Liam would become part of the Linton Elementary School family.

    Since he’s been there we’ve been to the ER twice, on many you-need-a-pace-maker-no-you-don’t-yes-you-do-just-not-yet fire drills, but we’ve also watched Jessica Ridgeway, the Aurora theater shootings, and Sandyhook. You don’t have to be a heart parent to feel the strange pain that comes from the tearing away of age.

    In some ways I’m lucky to know how lucky we are. I suppose if the road to May 30th and the last day of elementary school hadn’t been so uncertain all along, I might feel sadder about the end and more reticent about the beginning than I already do. But I know so many people whose children will never know this passage forward, and so many parents whose pain is that the tearing away happened all at once and from the wrong direction, leaving not a sting but a gaping hole. Yes, I know I am lucky, but even in my good fortune, there is the loss of time and the gift of a new time, and all the complexity that arises from simply being human.

    • Oh Amanda, I am at a loss for words to thank you for sharing this here. The slipping away happens at every age and in all honesty I cried as hard the last day of nursery school as I did the last day of high school. One of my friends shared this wise Pooh quote with me and it sums it up, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” Thank you Amanda, thank you.

  41. Tonya says:

    Tears are rolling…I have 2 boys myself. My oldest is 18 and even though he has decided that college is not for him, he has already started his adult life in the work force with a demanding job. We have always been like best friends being that I was a single mom until he was 8. We are still close and he still talks with me about a lot of things that most sons would never tell their moms and for that I am thankful. Now I am worried about “the” one. In my eyes no girl is good enough for my son. I do NOT want to be the mother-in-law that all women dread and I am afraid I am going to need counseling to keep from being THAT woman!
    My 8 year old May luck up as I may have conquered all of this by the time he has met “that” girl that plans on stealing MY son. ;)

    • Anonymous says:

      Tonya, I have the same experience with my son being an only child until he was 8. He is now 27 and has had girlfriends along the way, one for 7 years & I continually prayed that they would not get married – luckily they didn’t. He is now with a young lady who is absolutely phenomenal in all ways. In my estimation she may be the ‘one’, but he is smart and not rushing into anything. He always say how much he appreciates our solo time together and how he thinks it has helped him understand & relate to women on a deeper level and that he is so grateful for this. He also says that his current girlfriend reminds him of me so much – and maybe that’s why we all feel like she is already a member of our family. Just trying to say that your son will find his way and you two will most likely continue your close bond, as I have with my son. It is definitely an unusually deep bond that I am so blessed to experience.

  42. So, so crying. Bawling. Looking forward to catching up with you in June. I have so many questions!!!!!

  43. Marjorie says:

    I feel a little better after reading your thoughts. I never knew how real ” the
    Empty Nest Syndrome” could be for some parents, until I was hit over the head by it myself. When my son left for
    college it felt like I was in bed for about two months. His childhood photos provide painful pangs now and I no longer look at them. They do not illicit fond smiles as other childhood photos bring parents. My son is 29 now and about to be a father for the first time.
    I am looking forward to my first grandchild . I am hoping when my sons child grows and leaves it won’t be so difficult on him .

  44. That was beautifully perfect Lisa. Ellen

  45. Sarrah says:

    Like allot of mothers I can totally relate to this. I have an only child who will be 21 in a few weeks. When he first left for college I cried every time he’s come into town and then when I would see him packing his thing to leave in Sunday. Now that he has his own apartment I still get emotional when I haven’t seen him in a while and he comes over to eat with us. My husband tells me “don’t hover over him” or “stop mothering him” but how can you not. I think it’s especially hard with boys.

  46. Pam Pilote says:

    I believe that there is no way without pain here. Either they are happy and whole and can “launch” and break our hearts or they are not and can’t and our hearts are still broken. Perhaps they should come with warning labels attached-lol. There is something extra special about boys and moms. (Of course, I only have boys.)

  47. Beth Tanner says:

    Thank you so much for this. I feel like I’m going crazy missing my son so much. I don’t know what to do, how to act. This said what I feel. My son actually chose marriage instead if college. It’s like I don’t exist anymore.

  48. You put into words what my heart has been anguishing over since my oldest started high school. I have said to them ” I used to know every second of your day” . I just want to continue to know them. Thank you!

  49. Monica Baca says:

    Oh my. This resonates with me perfectly. My youngest son Just moved to Portland Oregon yesterday. I was there to help but I had to leave today to come back to New Mexico. I could not stop crying yesterday. Now I know why! Thank you!

  50. Kathryn says:

    This blog post was perfect for me! My oldest just returned from his first year of college. We had planned on his getting a summer job here and having him with us. Nope — he will be out of town most of the summer traveling for his job. This Thursday is our last day with him before his job starts. He will be working until about three days before going back to college.

    But the “son” who is breaking my heart is our foreign exchange student who has been with us for only ten months. I have fallen head over heels for this young man (he’s 17). He leaves in two weeks, and sometimes my chest literally hurts when I think that I may never see him again. He is from a part of Pakistan which he says is “sometimes” safe for Americans, so we won’t be going there. I am simultaneously so glad that I got the privilege of being his “mom” for this year, but also so sad that I missed out on all the preceding years, and I will miss the years to come.

    And it’s exactly what you said — it’s not that I want to “have” my boys, or even be with them all the time; it’s that I still want to “know” them. They aren’t interested in telling me everything, but I am still longing to hear it.

    (I still have one 16 year old boy at home; I am making an extra resolve to enjoy each moment with him!)

  51. This is the first time I have ever been to your blog. Though I have all girls who are still quite little – I totally get every word. Love it.

  52. This was beautiful! Even as I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks, I saw the truth and beauty in your words. I have a son who is just finishing kindergarten, and I hate already how much less I know him even now. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and thoughtful piece.

  53. OMG … I have 3 sons, 22, 20 and 16…my everyday thoughts, you put into such beautiful words, thank you !

  54. Kathy says:

    I also have three sons, the youngest is getting married in November. Thankfully, they all still live in the area and we get together on a regular basis, but it never makes the “Loss” any less. They are still, and always will be, my babies. The grandchildren are the great rewards. Three with a fourth on the way. :)

  55. Tamara Alvarez-Beaty says:

    Beautiful and perfectly articulated. I have two sons.My oldest recently became a father with a son of his own and my youngest who recently became a United States Marine. Thank you for writing this. It speaks the words of my own heart.

  56. Susan says:

    I have 8 sons (and 1 daughter) and am so blessed to be able to look at my college age boys and wish them young again for a week so I can play and listen to their unfiltered chatter only to see my younger ones run by doing just that. It makes me so appreciate that i have the opportunity to feel the pains of them moving away from me while enjoying my little ones a little more. I never gave birth to them only to wish them to grow up and move out to make my life easier. I am so happy to hear of all these boy moms who feel the same because I get that often as they move out and people tell me how much easier my life should be getting now. Thank you for voicing so eloquently how much we both celebrate and mourn our boys learning to live their own lives.

  57. Catherine says:

    This made me cry. So true. So bittersweet this process of raising and then letting go. Thank you for sharing it.

  58. Chris says:

    That was awesome! It is good to know what I am feeling is normal. I have 4 boys and my last son is moving out of state for college. Ive been told it is different when you have girls. They always seem to ‘need’ at least mom. Even when they are married with children. Letting go is probably one of the hardest things I have had to do. And it does not get easier with the experience of each son leaving. Thanks for your insight.

  59. Leah says:

    Very good way of putting it! I don’t want to know my boys even a little bit less either… BUT one thing to look forward is GRANDCHILDREN (someday)! Our kids grow up and leave home, but the joy of grandparenting is the best!

  60. Momma Love says:

    As I began to read, my eyes started to fill……..then I got to the quote from Rob Lowe. I do not mean to distract from the heartfelt beauty of this article so please forgive me. I am a Christian, and you completely lost me when you included Jesus’ name as a curse word. The potency of what he had to say would have been delivered without including the use of my Savior’s name as a curse word.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Maybe you should go on your son’s honeymoon with them. If you don’t, you will certainly “know them a little bit less.”

  62. Ohh, the tears are flowing now. So beautiful but so painful too. I have three boys as well, although the last two will leave me at the same time (they’re twins). I have about 10 years before the oldest leaves me but I feel your pain so completely. One day it will be me; but until then, your post just made me to clutch them a little tighter while I still can. And absorb every minute of knowing almost every nuance of their day, firsthand, while I still can. Thank you, and best of luck to you and your family!

  63. Laura says:

    This is a great example of why we, and our offspring,
    are not “the greatest generation “. Seriously – there is a process called individuation. It happens in utero when cells turn into different organs and it happens in life when children turn into their own individual selves That doesn’t mean that they are lost to us forever! All endings are also beginnings. Children need wings just as much as they need anchors. Read Kahil Gibran please

  64. Polly says:

    ‘Wow, oh so true” ( she says as she sobs). My three boys are older…last one left last fall. Even though they return, and love me oh so much. It really never is the same. Never really the same. Love to all of you and your sons, such a special crazy bond. Amen.

  65. Annie says:

    Oh man…
    I don’t think I have ever read anything put more succinctly, beautifully or poignantly about letting go. While I have no problem expressing myself, being able to describe the sadness that follows launching them has been difficult.

    Our oldest left 1 year after HS (a challenging time for him to be home) for his new family in the Marine Corps. Shortly after that, he left for Afghanistan. Boy, you sure look at life differently when that occurs in your life.
    The youngest was by far much more difficult to let go of. He has always filled the house with his guitar, his humor and his agreeable nature. Then there was the silence…no more sounds of life like that going on.
    I think I cried for a year after he left, and our other was heading into harms way.

    The thing I think that hurts the most is that its all over. Parenting is hard much of the time, but it’s sweetness and closeness far outweighs the challenge of it. Like you said, to know these people so very deeply, is such a rare experience that we never want to have that missing from our lives. They grow away. They cling to the women they make their wives…especially with sons. But I know by them going out on their own, I have done good work raising them…but still so hard.
    Girl…I was perfectly fine until I read this…mostly healed up, or so I thought. Apparently the sadness is still there on some level. Thank you for posting this…Excuse me while I go find a box of tissue to clean up the mess on my face. :)

  66. Mary says:

    Your words resonated with me. The youngest of my six children will graduate from high school next week and I have spent the last few weeks walking around with a smile pasted on my face as we prepare for this “joyous” event – I refuse to dampen my son’s enthusasism by letting him see my despair. So glad to know that I am not alone!

  67. Oh Lisa, this one made me ugly cry! I had to take a break half way through because I couldn’t see the words through the tears. My oldest graduates this year and it has turned this Mom who can normally control her emotions very well into a blubbering wreck. The thing is, I really like my kids. Of course I love them, but I genuinely also LIKE them. I will greatly miss our time together.

    I am usually terrible at leaving blog comments (even though my intentions are good) but this time I HAD to say bravo. I have loved your blog for a long time, and posts like this are the reason why!!

  68. Hoa Nguyen says:

    Knowing My Son a little less ! That is exactly I feel . Very touching article !

  69. Barb says:

    Awesone…. I live every bit you wrote…. My youngest … Daughter leaves this fall & I will be a wreck..
    So proud …., but know it will never be same…..

  70. Doreen says:

    This blog is beautiful and heart warming, and it seems normal for us to go through the gamut of emotions as our children graduate and move on to the next stage of their lives. It’s also comforting to feel the emotions we all are sharing here. While the years of raising our children are the absolute best years of our lives, I feel that the years that follow are even better. I was able to see my son through high school graduation and college. I saw him become a strong, independent, and happy young man that I am so very proud of. I am so blessed. Our relationship and bond only became richer and deeper in those four years between high school and college. Sadly, he died tragically at 22 years old, as he was only beginning to live out his life’s passion.

    To the mother who also lost her beloved son, I am so sorry to share in your horrific pain. For the mother who equated this next stage our our son’s lives as a “little death”…it doesn’t even come close. To the mom who said she felt as if “we all should stop whining…it is all relative”…so very true.

    Again, this blog was beautiful, and it’s so nice to be able to share our feelings. Thank you for that.

    This was my son’s favorite quote before he passed…Time is a waste…Enjoy the moments…they are timeless.

  71. Bea Mo says:

    I was caught off guard sending my first to college. I had the feeling I was launching a ship our family had worked for 17 years to construct with love, and now had the opportunity to watch as it floated, then powered away. We completed the sendoff with a toast (using real champagne) and, while a few deep breaths and surreptitious hanky-wipes were needed, the main feeling was excitement, joy, and confidence that this ship would do us all proud.

    Every time one of my children (now all adults) calls, texts, e-mails or visits, there’s a rush of delight and a new spring in the step. These acknowledgments that they’re fine — much more than fine — and still love to keep our bonds vital and alive in the midst of their busy lives, validate those original feelings. We built seaworthy vessels that yes, will go their own ways, but like salmon will always find their way back where they came from to bathe in the nourishing waters of home (not to mix metaphors). Then they’ll go off on their own again to bring delight to everyone around them.

    In this way, we parents reach farther than we realize. Our love, the lessons we’ve modeled and taught, along with everything each child brings into the mix that is uniquely each one’s own, send ripples far beyond the circle of our relatively small family. Every kind or thoughtful act my children do for others, every brilliant idea or solution that springs into one of their minds, every laugh or enjoyment they cause to and share with others is like balm to my soul. There’s no pleasure quite like hearing from a third party about something wonderful one of my children did that I’d never have heard of otherwise.

    Any sadness at their parting is so far outweighed by gifts like these.

  72. Angie says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I could not understand about myself.

  73. These concerns about rights of passage are universal…
    I wrote a poem about it a few years back when my daughter went to college
    I invite anyone who is thinking about kids leaving home to read it…
    Here’s the link: http://www.zeorlinart.com/PoemAfterSummerCamp.html
    (You may have to copy and paste the link).
    It’s good for kids to fly the nest!

  74. Marie E. says:

    Beautifully stated!

  75. allison carmen says:

    lisa, i think you put into words what so many people feel. i felt your post so deep in my heart. thank you, Allison

  76. Darci says:

    So very beautiful. Thank you for sharing. My heart hurts for the thought of this time coming all too soon for me.

  77. I loved this, I have two little boys that are just 20 months and 3 1/2 years. And I love their sweet babyhood. I also write a blog as I experience them growing up. http://mommyismyfavoritename.blogspot.com/2014/03/a-letter-to-my-second-baby.html?m=1 if you are interested.

  78. Vicky comer says:

    Lisa, I am in that exact place now and you have put my feelings into words so beautifully.

  79. Lisa A says:

    This goes for sons and daughters. My youngest just turned 10, but I have a 32 and 26 year old son and daughter. I am so dreading her growing up ; and each day I feel her slip away a little more.

  80. Our youngest of four graduated from UC Berkeley just over a week ago and got married three days later. I am aching through and through and cry at the oddest times. As their high school English teacher and counselor, I was in the middle of everything. And now I’m . . . done. Seems so odd. So many mixed emotions.

  81. G.Q. says:

    Unlike myself & my 3 sisters who left home at age 6 or 7 to attend mission boarding school 10-12 hours away by car, at least you had a full 12 years precious time with them…!

  82. JOE says:

    This was amazing! My mother passed away 3 years ago and she told me when she got sick that I gave her the most amazing ride. It never hit me til now. Thanks.

  83. What a sweet post! I went through this three times with my own boys. Watching their first steps was awesome. Watching their steps as they walked away from home was not. It never gets easy.

    That’s exactly what my new novel “Just 18 Summers” and my parenting blog are about–to remind parents that we have just 18 summers before our children leave home–to slow down and make some memories.

    Thank you for saying it so beautifully.

  84. amy says:

    Absolutely beautiful and right on the money. I have 3 sons as well and have watched them grow into wonderful young men. I wouldn’t change one thing except spending more time just being with them and not volunteering quite so much. They are making their way in the world now (2 college grads and one yet to go soon) and it is a killer not to know their daily routines. Thanks so much for putting it in words. Thought I was the only one not glad to see children leave!!

  85. Brilliantly written. I hope I can cast some encouragement to some of you and the pain a lot of you are experiencing. I have two sons and a daughter, all of them are married now and we just had our first grandchild. I was thinking back over the years as they left and yes it was hard for me to let them go:however; we always had a great relationship and we still do and that has not changed. Moms have it tough, because when your heart is breaking, you still have to encourage your children in different situations. I know that it may be difficult for you to not know everything they are thinking and doing but the act of leaving does not have to be a horrible thing. I am very proud of my adult children and the people they have become and knowing that part of me is always with them because of my love for them and the way I was able to parent them.Same it true for them , they have a part of you too! Even though my sons are married they still call and come visit in fact just the other weekend my youngest came with his wife and spent the night and now my baby boy, who I love has a baby of his own , who we can love together. Please remember that time changes things but please never give up on continuing another chapter in your life together with your sons and or daughters. As they get older it will be different but it can also be wonderful and exciting as you merge from being a parent into becoming parent/friend.

  86. Jan says:

    Loved this! The oldest of my three boys just graduated high school, and like so many others I find myself crying at the oddest times. Not a tear during graduation, but just strange, random moments. And I know there are many more tears ahead; I suspect I’ll cry like a baby at his final honor choir concert in a few weeks, but perhaps if I bring the tissues Murphy’s law will kick in and I’ll be safe! At the same time, I find that I am absolutely adoring these “cusp of adulthood” conversations we have lately. He’s planning to major in music as I did, and he seems very eager to talk about what it will be like and his hopes for a career in the arts. I don’t think I’d trade these last few months we have ahead of us for any chance to go back in time and have a few more years with him.

  87. Terry Cassidy says:

    I’m a father of two boys, the older just graduated high school. I was so proud of him while at the ceremony, then the bittersweet hit me. I feel that I am mourning the loss of my day-to-day contact with him, the noise of him and his friends in the house, watching his band concerts and standing in the cold watching the marching band. He is beginning an exciting new time of life and I am so happy for him. But I will miss all the times we shared and am sad to see this part of life come to a close. Glad I still have a younger one, I am not ready to stop being dad.

  88. Val says:

    This was said perfectly. I feel EXACTLY the same about my boys

  89. Vicki says:

    Oh dear, my oldest is only 6 and just the prospect of inevitably having to go through this makes my heart heavy. And now I must go call my mum so that she can know a bit more of me.

  90. Carol says:

    In many ways this is true for us kids as well… We may be ready to fly but I still miss my family every day. I miss the everyday rthymn of my life growing up with my family and I do miss knowing them better as well! Most of us kids love to come home to you no matter how old we get!

  91. Teena says:

    So beautiful! My son is going away to college this fall and I’m embarrassed that I know I’m going to miss him so. It’s a scary and exciting new chapter .

  92. leslie says:

    so wonderfully explained!! my oldest of 3 has been home for a month before starting graduate school…and I try NOT to count down the days before he leaves again, knowing full well that this is probably the last time he “lives” with me. He can’t understand why I joyfully make his lunch for work and do his laundry. It’s because it is part of “knowing” him more!!! No shame or embarrassment over here…my husband teared up calling all the kids in for dinner (22, 18,16) from the backyard-just like old times! thanks for sharing so eloquently!!

  93. Pat says:

    What a beautiful post and “I don’t want to know him a little less” is something any mom can appreciate, but as you also say, “parenting never ends.”
    Congratulations on your big gig with Katie Couric. Wish I could see it in Switzerland.

  94. Matthew says:

    Lisa- Thank you. As a father of three boys, I read your words this morning and wept tears of joy and sadness. I am knowing my teenage boys a little less and less each day. Such sweet sorrow.

  95. karol says:

    Wow, I want to cry!

  96. K Ross says:

    This was beautifully written and was exactly how I felt. I always had a harder time with my son and major milestones than I did my two girls. He died when he was 22 from a motorcycle accident. He was the center of our universe and he struggled to let go. We finally told him we would be okay after 5 weeks in intensive care. We feel so blessed to have loved someone so much and the impact he made in many lives. It just means you did a fantastic job raising them if they take flight and are confident enough to go out and conquer the world on their own.

  97. Wow. I, too, have 3 sons. My youngest is still home. This expressed my feelings too well. I am searching for my purpose in life now. It helps so much to hear that others feel the same way. I think it shakes us that our everyday rhythm is changed each time one leaves….just as it did when one joined us for the very first time. I find myself looking forward to grandchildren and hoping that will fill my life again.

  98. Terri says:

    Wow, that was a powerful read. And was spot on. Mine went to college for a year which was hard enough but then left to join the Air Force. Talk about an emotional ordeal for mom but he is now happy and living in Hawaii. But I still miss him everyday.

  99. Misty says:

    FINALLY someone knows how I have been feeling! My one and only child who I pretty much grew up with since I had him at 17 graduated in 2012! Like you said I was BEAMING with pride we had beat the odds of teen moms/kids of teen moms how could I not be happy! But inside I knew him walking across that stage meant he was leaving me! And my heart just was so broken at that thought! How would I manage everyday life without him? It’s been 2 years now and it by no means has been easy but I have made it thru! All my friends said the same things to me! So annoying! Of course I’m proud of my kid but I still don’t want him to leave me! Thank you for sharing and letting me know I’m not the only one!

  100. Gail says:

    Loved your empty nest article, luckily had a Kleenex handy! We have 3 boys, I’m a stay-at-home mom, I joke how I’m hardly ever home. After I read your article, there you were on Katie! Adorable!

    Everything you wrote struck a chord with me. “Every year they will have more and more experiences that we only know from photos and their retelling, and more experiences we never hear about at all.” That is deafening! Especially my middle one, a freshmen–not a communicator!

    I find I have my sad reflective moments. I also have an incredible group of friends who are like family. We go out as couples, vacation together with our familes and for us, the empty nest means more time with this special group of couples. Bucket listd grow and although I have 2 in college, we still have an 11 yr-old at home–keeps our big boys coming home. So while not quite an empty nest, I’ve still had to adjust and transition filling different kind of needs for our college boys and thank goodness for Facetime & texts!

    Good luck and enjoy! The best is yet to come!!

  101. So well-written and expressed. Looks like you struck a chord with a lot of parents! Knowing that you and Sharon were going to be on the show talking about empty nests today got me thinking, which made me realize that my youngest went off to college ten years ago! Do I still miss having kids around? I miss the everydayness of knowing what they’re up to–instead, I get just the headlines: good or not so good. Typically, I hear more from my daughter than I do from my sons. Even though I feel close to the boys, I still have to work harder at keeping in touch with them. But no one can make me laugh the way they do, even in a Tweet!

  102. christine natale says:

    I have 4 children, aged 18 down to 4. one graduating elementary school the other high school, and as much as it hurts, I tend to look at it as us as mothers of these precious gifts as a loan from God. Im not sure if you prescribe to this line of thinking…I am no holy roller by any means, but I honestly believe you are “loaned” these beings ,keeping t hem as safe as possible, so that they may lead healthy and productive lives to serve some kind of “higher purpose ” for whatever that may be.Im sure you have heard the expression,”God cannot be everywhere so he made mothers”. Anyway, of course we will feel emptiness but I guess we will replace it with the satisfaction of a job well done.(I really hope)

  103. Alicia says:

    I think you have read my mind and probably every woman out there with three sons. I felt the same as you when they all went off to college., found the loves of their lives, or grew into wonderful men. I knew that I would not be the center of their universe, not that I wanted that, but I knew my time with them would be less. I am ever grateful for all of the days, months, and years that I spent with them. I lost one of my sons last year and will always yearn for more time with him, but I know that I want to have more time with my other two. Yet, again, I know they have their lives to live to the fullest. I miss my boys everyday.

  104. Lisa says:

    This is exactly how I fell. Really touched my heart,raising 2 sons by myself most of there life. I’m a very proud mom!!!

  105. Anonymous says:

    So beautiful

  106. Dianne N says:

    I never comment on these things, but your writing left my heart aching for my three kids – th youngest of whom is a sophomore in college. I don’t think I have ever heard someone describe my feelings on a sensitive subject quite so brilliantly. All I can say is thank you for putting it into words. Awesome piece.

  107. Oh my…. So lovely and beautifully written. My two boys are 10 & 12 and I am afraid to blink. Time is flying by. I love watching them grow and change and become these incredible human beings, I just can’t imagine my daily life without them in it. Even the mundane is magical for me, though I may not recognize it the moment it occurs, it doesn’t take me long to appreciate it.

  108. Missy says:

    This was so well written! I have been called a “helicopter” parent…the one who was a “stay-at-home” mom, room mom, PTO president, field trip chaperone and even drama club director…and it was never because they needed me around (truthfully they probably would have been quite happy if I were not there as much), but I wanted so desperately to know what they were experiencing. I thought I would die when my son left for college, but he went and we did an occasional phone call, a text now and then and a few visits…and I lived through it! (Now he is off to graduate school and planning a wedding!) But I had another child at home…a distraction from it all…. Now it is time for my daughter to go…she graduated from high school two weeks ago and has big plans! I am so excited for her, but without another child at home to distract and entertain me, this is going to be tough! I dread how quiet my home (and calendar) will now be… But time marches on and I will try to hold back and let her grow into the next chapter of her life…waiting for any updates she is willing to give!

  109. Imjudyc says:

    This was well-written but very sad, too. My only son, the last of my 3, graduates hs next week. This hit a little too close to the heart. We have always been very close, so yes, I am dreading August when he goes away to college. I am so thankful that I have a sweet husband and good friends to help me adjust to this new ‘season’ of my life. But I think this fall’s going to be a strange time—-

  110. When you meet a kindred spirit, your hearts gains a bit of hope…a touch of comfort…an affirmation of pain’s purpose in our lives…or a soft place to land and catch your breath. Lisa, this author, you are a soul sister! In way too many bewildering tears, I keep shouting at myself as you do to stop, to turn to gratitude, to see this for the very natural and wonderful right of passage it is. How proud and inspiring to see our children trek out on their own journeys…grow their own self-chosen partnerships…see the energy of their own creative decisions big and small…all the while just longing for the joy of their company…and realizing that each step means knowing our sons a little less. Maybe this is one of the most important gifts we give as Mamas – Letting go…(but, doing this, I can say for sure that my heart fills like it is walking outside of my body).

  111. Susan J says:

    And this is what I know is to come and why I burst into tears at each school year’s end. I don’t want to know mine less either. So beautifully articulated.

  112. Shawn H. Hall says:

    Dear, Lisa.

    I cried and cried when I read this post. Now, normally I would consider myself a man’s man. I have stiched my own wounds closed after an accident. I just never cried…until the time that I saw my first daughter be born. I could never have imagined something so tiny that looked exactly like me! And I had similar emotion over the births of my other two babies. And although your story is not totally relevant to my situation, the emotions are the same.

    I am now a single, disabled father. My wife left without a word on February 28th…the day before her birthday…and ran off with a stranger whom she had just met. As she took care of the kids for the most part, and as she does not want them, Child Protective Services took my babies (ages 5, 4 and 1) from me, contending that I will be ubable to care for them. The heartbreaking part of this is that it simply is not true.

    I would do ANYTHING for my sweet babies, and did, whenever I needed to. I love them with all of my heart, and my house is now like a mausoleum without their laughter and sweet voices to punctuate the silence. I would gladly take a bullet for any one of them if it would prevent them feeling a single touch of pain. I am not whole anymore. I am shattered.

    I am going to classes, a counselor, multiple doctors and more, all in an attempt to get my babies back. I would do absolutely ANYTHING legal (and, admittedly, a few illegal things if I thought that I would not be caught AND if it would guarantee my babies’ safe returns) to try to get them back to where they belong. I’m no criminal, but these clueless people are threatening my life with my babies. Do they even realize what they are doing?!

    My only son, my 4-year-old, “Peanut,” cries every time that he sees me and begs me to take him home with me. He asks plaintively, “Daddy, why can’t I come home with you? Please take me home with you!” And when they take my son back to the foster home, he now has started injuring himself! A FOUR-YEAR-OLD is now injuring himself, and they feel that they are HELPING him? It is too much for me to take, sometimes.

    Consequently, and even though it is not allowed by the authorities, I sometimes burst into tears over my babies when they are leaving for the foster home. This whole situation is beyond heartbreaking, and almost beyond my ability to cope. So when I read a well-written, heartbreaking post such as yours, it brings up all of my emotions that I have for my kids.

    I cry myself to sleep ar night (when I am able to sleep–which is rarely), I have lost almost 80 lbs. in only 3 months, and all of my previous favorite activities (of which, playing with my sweet babies was number one) seem to fade to terrible memories, as I do not want to enjoy myself doing ANYTHING unless and until my babies are returned.

    I go back to court at the end of July. Until then I will only be allowed two visits. I asked their mom if she wanted to come on this Tuesday, our next visit, and she stated that she might not “be able to come.” WHAT?! How could she NOT want to see them?! I do not understand. And our oldest, our 5-year-old daughter, “Monkey,” is a real momma’s girl. She loves, and is tightly bonded with, her mom. Whereas, our two youngest babies both love Daddy, and want little to do with mom. How, then, will I explain their mom’s abscence AGAIN, and especially to our oldest daughter who worships her mom?

    I truly enjoyed your article, even if it brought up my most painful feelings and thoughts, right now. It was very evocative, and the fact that it speaks to me is proof that these types of emotions are universal. I might not be a mom, but I know how it feels to lose my sweet babies, whether to a foster parent or to life. It hurts just the same.

    Sincerely,

    Shawn H. Hall

  113. Angelo Fernandes says:

    Iread Lisa Post just by chance. on of the most beautiful acts of narration I have ever read. The hurt of missing children when theyleave home to make their own. it is never easy fill the void they leave behind. We have experienced the same when both my boys left home at the same time, We were so utterly lost, itwas fortunate that bothof us were committed to our job, which took our minds away from them for a while. But remember that time heals all pain

  114. Oklahoma Mom says:

    I, too, have 3 sons – now 47, 41 and 37. Their dad died when they were 21, 14 and 11, and the years following that were filled with adjustment for all of us.
    But – I have never been closer to them than I am now. They share all their problems and challenges, and I am so honored to have earned this place of trust in their hearts.
    They have given me one beautiful granddaughter and 4 precious grandsons!
    Don’t feel like you’re losing them – the opportunities for even closer relationships are still ahead!
    I’m happy to say I know my sons a lot more!

    • Nancy says:

      Thank you for sharing that, as I, too, feel like all these moms. So hard to let our little ones grow up and become their own. Mine are 21 and 22 years old and I couldn’t be more proud, but I do feel the lose. Thanks for telling me that the best years are ahead!!!!!

  115. Theresa LeClerc says:

    My sons are 8 years apart and have never been “really”close because of the age difference,not that I didn’t try to have them closer, just the way it turned out. My oldest left our home in 2003. My youngest is in college and left the home in 2011. I miss them every day and we all live in the same state but they aren’t here at home. They have their own lives and I’m not as much a part of them as I was when they were at home. We talk but with work schedules( theirs and mine) and class schedules, we don’t talk as much as I like. When we do talk sometimes there are pauses because I don’t know what to talk about since I’m not so IN their lives anymore and that hurts too. I do know my sons a little less but their lives are so much richer for the start that we gave them in the beginning and with what they have accomplished on their own. I just want to be a bigger part of it now.

  116. Bueno5 says:

    I have 3 young children..2 which are my boys, my oldest will start 8th grade and I’m already emotional cause H.S is next and from there time will FLY!! MY youngest starting kinder as soon as I know it He will be in HS:( this brought tears to my eyes knowing that that soon I will be watching my children walk into the real world where they make own decisions, a place where I can’t protect them.I feel your pain cause my niece graduated last week the joy was so overwhelming but the sadness is something I never fel….I have pretty much raised her seen every first moment been there for every big accomplishment and now its like she doesn’t need me as much! But I find what helps is knowing I taught her to be a good person do what’s right stay focused and no matter if she fails or succeeds I Will be there to pick her up…Good luck to u and those boys of yours:)

  117. MaryJean Bower says:

    I especially agree and can totally relate to being fascinated by how my kids think, what they think, and why they think those thoughts. I was, and always will be intrigued by them as people. There is no conversation so close to the soul as one with one’s child, no matter their age. You said all this so well-great article!

  118. Very, very well said. My 23 year old son is engaged, and now I face another kind of separation….I find myself dreaming about holding my blonde, brown eyed baby boy who adored his mommy just one more time. I’m already in tears.

    • Ruthie says:

      Tam, do everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING in your power to make your daughter In-law feel accepted and not threatened. Your son has a strong bond with you, but alas, “A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all of her life.” Ain’t fair, but that’s the way life is.

  119. Pat Johnson-Backsmeier says:

    Wow!!! You so eloquently summed up my core of emotion with my three sons. Thanks for this amazing read!

  120. Great article, but disappointed in your quoting someone who fails to set a good example in his writing by swearing. This comment came from our first president, “The General is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice hitherto little known in our American Army is growing into fashion. He hopes that the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our army if we insult it by our impiety and folly. Added to this it is a vice so mean and low without any temptation that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.” George Washington

  121. Ruthie says:

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have six boys in my life. I instantly became the step-mom of 4 beautiful, sweet boys when I was a young bride, and then gave birth to two more sweet and wonderful boys. The youngest is 27. My heart has ached at each milestone because I know that it is true…I will know them a little less. But there is good news! I have been blessed with grandchildren, (boys and girls) who constantly remind me of their amazing dads (my amazing sons). It is so much fun to see an expression, or hear a laugh…or a comment, and it’s just like looking at their daddy when he was that age. Sometimes it takes my breath away, and when that happens, I pause and whisper, “Thank you, God!”

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  1. […] made the mistake of reading an empty nest article this evening. While I have plenty of time before this inevitable stage in life, I’ve dreaded […]

  2. […] 5/19/14 By Lisa Heffernan 128 Comments […]

  3. Kristine Rudolph » Explore More : June 6th says:

    […] you haven’t taken a second to read the post “Knowing My Sons a Little Less”  from Grown & Flown, get your kleenex handy and read it now. Although she is speaking of her […]

  4. […] to leave, parents are supposed to care, this is life as it should be.  As the leave we will know them a little less, so is it any wonder that the change is […]