My child is leaving. Those little words ring huge like a clanging bell in my head.
For those of us facing offspring number one’s imminent departure I wonder, did anybody see this coming? Why didn’t anybody tell me this part is hard, nasty and scary.
What was I thinking when I told my daughter, “You should apply to distant universities, so you can have the authentic university experience”? Was I on drugs?
Of course, she applied and got in to a faraway school and is leaving in August. Do I get points for my now completely fake enthusiasm at her cool new adventure when all I want is to tuck her in my pocket forever?
Our grad posse are all going through this or something similar as the critical moments of high school slip through our astonished hands.
So what can I do?
What it Feels Like With Your Last Teen at Home
Wait… I know! I will turn my full attention to offspring number two. I realize with a start that he is still in my pocket! “Oh how glorious” I think to myself, I get to keep this one.
It is starting to dawn on my remaining teen that all the attention will be on him. Relentless fussing of a kind he has never experienced before. He will no longer be the less visible quiet one, or the kid who can cruise on his sister’s coattails. He is now number one and he is starting to sweat.
I can almost hear the panicked thoughts in his head:
“What if they start to notice my video gaming and try to play too?”
“Why is my underwear being ironed?”
“She is packing my lunches again, what the hell?”
“27 questions about school and my buddies today, save me from this tyranny!”
“No! I am not seeing anybody Mom, jeez”
He is going to start feeling like a little Hobbit just trying to run with his ring, but now the eye of Sauron is on him with a ferocity only a Mother could achieve.
I keep thinking about life in the AD (after departure) period of our lives. When I occasionally allow myself to coast into the happy place in my mind, I think about how we will bond as a family in new ways when it is just the three of us. Then I give my head a quick shake and throw a little honesty water on myself. What teenage boy wants to interact with his parents? Is that not some kind of canon of the teen boy commandments? “Thou shalt not speak to your parents in full sentences”.
Then I start making a new plan. Maybe he would like to visit his sister at school? We could all fly for a long weekend and hang out on her campus and go out to dinner. I started to float the plan to my husband and stopped myself. How precisely did I think that would actually go? We would come storming on to her dorm floor with her little brother unwillingly in tow. I can already hear the protests from him, and the eye rolling from her. Alright, this scheme is not going to work.
Back to the boy. I know he will have to pick classes for his penultimate year in school. Maybe he needs help and guidance? That could be a thing, maybe?
Driving lessons! Maybe we could teach him to drive, that would be fun! Said no person ever.
My mental bucket of ideas for how to maximize the time I have left is running short. The items remaining are either cringey contrived activities, or the family equivalent of forced marches. There is no coming up against the headphones and silence. And yet, despite my desperation not to fritter away the time before he too will leave us, I am lost as to how.
I still plan to make my boy incredibly uncomfortable by inviting his buddies to stay for dinner. My scheme to buy him an ice cream when I pick him up from work is one of my more popular ideas. I will make him a lunch when he is running late for the school bus and take his picture as often as I can get away with.
If I am honest, I might be making up for the three years of the only child bliss that his sister had before he came along. Also, perhaps compensating for the year I have spent preparing for my firstborn to leave the nest when she was the star of the show. With her gone, perhaps my son will feel like he is less in the shadows, or he will be blinded by the glaring light of attention from his parents.
Either way, he will have to tolerate more hugs, more questions about his day and girls in the next two years. I am not going to let another grade 12 year sneak up on me again. I will see it coming and squeeze every moment out of it.
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