The Real Question is How Will I Get on Without My Teens?

Last night I dreamed that my teeth were loose and wiggly, and then, to my absolute horror, began falling out one by one into my hand. I woke in a panic, pushed my tongue against my choppers, testing their stability and reassuring myself that it was in fact a dream. I knew from past experience that dreams about tooth loss had to do with stress, feeling powerless and loss; emotions I was uncomfortably familiar with.

It was only a few weeks ago that I walked away from the airport security line and left my son to go through the boarding process without me. He is 16 and embarking on a hiking tour which will challenge him physically and mentally.

When he chose this experience, he gave absolutely no thought to how much it would test his mother. Still, I smiled and frantically waved as TSA verbally shoved me off, putting a world of distance between us that had nothing to do with the airport. He was going forward, and I was being left behind. As a mom, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

The following week I found myself in almost the exact position as I sent my middle son off as well. He is headed on a trip with his cousin that is outside of my comfort zone, a two week hiking trip (Funny aside – we don’t hike!).

mom with boys
It’s not how will they go on without me, but how will I go on without them? (Twenty20 @sony.khalizova)

My House Feels Too Empty

Now I am home in a house that feels far too empty, especially with my husband and youngest son off watching a baseball game. I’m left fidgeting with a lot of emotion and seemingly no release, until I decide to take a run. It’s a beautiful slightly overcast morning and the minute I set off, I realize how out of step I am. My legs are as heavy as my heart. But on I go, slowly plodding forward, my brain obsessing over my children growing up and spreading their wings.

I know it’s all good and how lucky they are – we all are (puh puh puh*) – but I’m still afraid and a bit melancholy. My babies are no longer babies. I cannot keep them sheltered under my skirts or playing in the fenced-in backyard. Those days are long gone.

They are teenagers now and their brains need to separate both mentally and physically from their parents. My friend who reads a lot of books on ‘the male brain’ says it’s biological. This is the time for them to branch out and build their life’s resume, explore and have experiences of their own…

Without their mom. {No, you’re sobbing}

How will they get on without me, I wonder, but the real question is, how will I get on without them? Somehow, I know that while it may not be a ‘made-to-order mommy’ egg sandwich, or pasta with just the right amount of butter and Parmesan, they will eat.

They will even somehow change their underwear and brush their teeth (eventually), get up when they need to and preform as expected. I know this. They will survive, succeed and flourish without me, but without them I feel like a part of me is missing, and it is the most special part.

Every step they take is another step away from those sweet, dirty- kneed (and faced and shirted and haired…) boys who were always happy to hug the life out of me. Like this jog of mine, the forward progression is torture. I used to be able to control their surroundings and maintain the illusion of safety, but now they are moving outside of the bubble and it scares me deeply.

If my father were alive, he’d be buying them Hazmat suits and safety helmets. He would nod knowingly at my fears and ask if my fire extinguishers were up to date and if we had our emergency supply bag ready, just in case. But he’s not with us any longer, so the missing in general feels even more raw.

I consult his old glasses perched atop Alexa in my kitchen, a physical reminder of his lost presence and wisdom. Yes, they tell me, there’s no stopping time. Life keeps changing and we need to change with it. He did not want to die, but he did. My boys were excited to take that next step and I need to get with the program. Ready or not.

Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Growing up definitely is. And growing older and letting go…? Well, let’s just say, it ain’t for sissies.

The run was a good idea I decide, now that I’m three quarters of the way done. It allowed me to think things through, and also work off a few of the calories from last night’s ice cream binge when I wasn’t feeling as evolved. As I come down my street counting, four houses to go…three…two…a happy sight greets me. It is my good friend at my door with her dog. She is smiling and hoping for a little walk and talk.

“Thought you could use a little moral support,” she says, making me even happier to see her. Two of her children are mostly grown, both busy with various life adventures. Her perspective comforts and assures me. And, also, we laugh. It’s what girlfriends are for. To help traverse the crazy.

I think about all the amazing experiences out there waiting for my boys…travel, girls (omg!), college (Ahhhhh!!!) and try not to think about those two bedrooms upstairs, momentarily dark and empty. I have no idea where my babies are going or what they’ll decide to do, but I do know a few things – this wonderful life is an adventure for us all, and even if I miss them, I don’t want them to miss out.

I’m definitely going to need a new pair of sneakers.

*Jewish superstition to scare off any bad omens, usually accompanied by a bit of grandma spittle.

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About Alisa Schlindler

Alisa Schindler is a mom of three boys and wife to Mr. Baseball. She schleps children, burns cupcakes and writes essays that have been featured online at the New York Times, Washington Post, Kveller, Brain, Child, Woman’s Day, Parents and Good Housekeeping, among others. She is currently a regular contributor to Northwell Health’s The Well. On the side, she writes sexy suburban fiction novels. Find out more about her at

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