I still remember it so clearly; the heady joy of discovering I was pregnant; the overwhelm of a love that was almost painful the first time I held my baby. It seemed unfathomable back then to think of a time I’d be without my children. First steps, first words. Sticky toddler kisses, teenage uncertainty as they tried to navigate their way in the world and then, later, it was me who was uncertain and afraid as I took my second child to university. The heartbreak as I drove away in a car that was too empty. Too quiet. Back to a house that looked exactly the same but felt somehow different.
I felt somehow different.
A mother bird with an almost empty nest.
It was difficult initially to sift through my feelings. What was real and what was imagined. What thoughts were coming from ego, of which there were many: –
- Of course he’ll never be as comfortable anywhere else as he is at home.
- Of course he won’t eat as well now I’m not cooking for him.
- Of course he’ll never wear clean clothes again.
Except he will. He does. He can.
He’s resilient. Strong. Capable of creating his own home, operating a cooker, a washing machine. Underneath the tangle of irrational fears that I’d never see him again, that our relationship would be irrevocably altered, came a creeping sense of pride.
I’ve brought him up well. He’s smart, funny, resourceful and kind.
Last month I left him at university with three things.
A photo book of his childhood. The cover a reminder that wherever he goes, whatever he does, he has a family who will always have his back. Be there for anything he needs. Who would unquestionably bury a body for him.
A story about his hopes and dreams. It’s easy to get swept away. To forget who you are, what you want. What you can achieve if you try. A mother/son chat warning him of the pitfalls of too much partying and not enough work would have been quickly forgotten. Instead, I wrote a story about a boy and his journey through adulthood constructed almost entirely of lyrics and song titles from his favourite band, The Counting Crows. A reminder of what he could be.
The last thing I gave him was the wisdom that every student should know. It’s always salt, tequila, lemon. Don’t mess with the order. And always, ALWAYS, drink a pint of water before bed.
These were the things I left him with at university, but he left me with so much more. A heart full of love and a lifetime of memories along with an immense sense of gratitude that the world is wide open to him. The world is lucky to have him.
Images courtesy of Unsplash – Liv Bruce & Fidel Fernando.