My Son Brings Me to Tears But I Don’t Want Him to Leave

I will never understand how a person could possibly feel two more opposite feelings simultaneously than the ones I feel being the mom of a high school senior. I am the mother to an only child who will graduating in June and reporting to college in August. 

I have never wanted to shove someone out of my house with great haste while also wanting to never let them leave…well, ever. And it is disorienting at best.

We have officially entered the season of “soiling the nest” in my house. I have cried more in the last two months than I have in the last ten years. Sometimes it is because I will miss him so much that it physically hurts, and my husband and I are doing our best to prepare ourselves for calming that ache over the next year. But sometimes the tears are a result of how mean he has been lately.  

This “soiling the nest” time is really hard. (Photo credit: Kristin Rotella )

I cry because my son can be so mean to me

Many will say this is normal, a part of flexing the muscles of independence while also creating a rift that makes it easier for him to leave us when the time comes. Unfortunately, as normal as this may be, nobody prepares you for how much it can hurt your feelings.  

We attend every senior year sporting event, awards ceremony, and special gathering known to man, even volunteering and organizing some. We ensure the yearbook is purchased, the cap and gown secured, prom needs attended to, and graduation parties planned.  

Why does my son start vicious fights with me?

College visits complete, the 2024 FAFSA nightmare survived (if you know, you know), and a college decision made. Surely, he will appreciate all that we have done to help him get here.  So why did he just start a knockdown, drag out fight via text with me about how he doesn’t need to get his hair cut for the prom? It wasn’t just a fight, he lashed out and he did it hard and with purpose. He said things he regretted and later apologized for, but the damage to my feelings was done. It’s always fights about the little things, right?

I know that I am supposed to think to myself, “why, of course this is a normal, healthy part of him letting go of us to live life on his own.” I am supposed to take comfort in all the social media posts reminding me that all this heartache will reap amazing positive things for my child just around the corner, just wait and see. And I do believe these things are true.  

As we get closer to graduation the pain of his behavior has gotten worse

But my own personal truth is that the closer we get to graduation and with every passing “last” event, it is getting harder and harder to keep this in mind and have it be enough to ease the pain. The closer we get to graduation, the more I notice that the “already missing him” pain is growing stronger, but the same is happening with the “why is he so mean” pain. We have officially moved to the extreme edges of this strange pain spectrum, and I have to say that I very much dislike it here.  

I continue to wait patiently and quietly for the rare moments that still happen every so often when he chooses to carve out some time for me between school, work, and endless social gatherings (moments that aren’t based on logistical need – Mom, where are my work pants? doesn’t count), and do what I can to make the most of them. They are almost always brief, and I force myself to have some dignity and let go of them gracefully when he decides it is time. And I know that all of this is temporary, and I will soon be able to focus on all the exciting things that lie ahead for all of us – him in college and his father and I as empty nesters.  

In some moments, I can already begin to feel butterflies at the thought of his classes next semester, his opportunity to play college football, hearing all about his adventures (when he chooses, of course), and trying to figure out who I was before my life revolved around being a 24/7 mom. But in other moments, I feel consumed but one end or the other of that pain spectrum. And if you do too, please know you’re not alone.  

Cry, breathe, go for a walk in the sun, consider talking to a therapist to help you process, and get back to momming. You don’t want to miss a second.

More Great Reading:

Six Ways My World Relaxed When I Became An Empty Nester

Kristin Rotella has been a teacher since 2002, wife since 2004, and mom since 2006 based in the Catskill Mountain region of New York State. Navigating parenting an only child while teaching high school special education and trying to be a whole person at the same time.

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