For those of you in the throes of this transition, this incredible real-time transition of your child entering adulthood–perhaps you’re like me. As my smart, capable, independent, thoughtful son begins to fly the nest, I’ve tuned into my inner dialogue these days and it is loud. I’ve been biting back my reflex responses. Often.
At a recent graduation celebration for my son, surrounded by family and friends, I burst into tears. That really isn’t my style. I surprised myself. My close friend whose daughter is entering her sophomore year in college next fall put her hands on my shoulders and said, “I know. I get it.” I didn’t realize how much I had needed to hear that until that very moment. I let loose.
My son walked by and asked what was wrong. I just smiled and shrugged and waved him off because how could he begin to understand the storm of emotions I’d been lugging around his entire senior year? I spent some time sharing with my friend all the inner thoughts I’d be harboring. Thoughts that were guarded by humor, tainted with joy and drowning a bit in nostalgia.
Here are some snippets of how my conversations have transpired with my son, accompanied by my inner thoughts. My son might want to know them one day, but for now, I’m going to continue to bite my tongue.
Son: Morning, Mom.
Me: Hey! Happy graduation day, Mr. Graduate!
(Oh my god. You are hours away from accepting your diploma, moving your tassel and you may as well acquire a mortgage in a new state right now because everything changes and you’re leaving me)
Son: Mom, do you know where my dress shoes are?
Me: Check the front closet.
(Which dress shoes? The first pair we ever bought you before you were even walking? Yeah. I know where those are. They’re stepping on my heart.)
Son: So, um, mom, I was hoping to go to a couple of my friends’ graduation parties tonight if that’s okay.
Me: Certainly. I expect you to use your good judgement.
(Note to self, remove car battery)
Son: I did it!
Me: You sure did! You did it!
( *Stares back at husband. Has most meaningful, wordless conversation ever*)
Son: Yeah, I’ll get up in a few minutes. Just really tired. I know I work today. I know it’s 3 in the afternoon.
Me: Just making sure that you’re alive in there. Stop staying up so late.
(You didn’t want to leave my body either, big boy. They had to take you by force. Maybe they’ll have to again. We shall see.)
Son: Okay, I’m off. I’ll text you when I can.
Me: Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you?
Son: Mom. No. I got this.
Me: Of course you do! Have a great day.
(Look both ways. Find a buddy. Don’t forget to eat lunch. Beware of strangers. Call your mommy. *Searches for every baby picture ever taken ever*)
Son: It was great. I got my schedule, declared my major and qualified for a special seminar. Can I tell you more later? I’m late for my internship at the law office. Have you seen my dress shoes?
Me: Check the front closet.
(You. Still. Need. Me.)
End scene. Begin.
Jess Burnquist earned her MFA from Arizona State University. She writes and teaches high school Creative Writing and English in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area where she also resides with her husband, their teenage son and daughter, as well as their three-legged dog, Skipper.