I have been mentally preparing for Jake to go to college for like three years, when I literally woke up one day and it hit me like a sledge hammer to the skull that I was looking down the barrel of the end of a very particular kind of parenting. I’m not sure why it struck me during his sophomore year that the end was near. It seems premature, as I look back on it. But for some reason, this was the beginning of my mourning process. And while I don’t think it’s appropriate to equate dying to having your kid go to college, there are some similarities. Of course, I wear black whether there’s mourning going on, or not.
The thing is, I am actually not killing myself here, having Jake gone! This is a real surprise to me. I considered that a crane might have to be called in to lift me out of bed, the National Guard to prevent my jumping off the roof, the rescue of ten puppies at the MSPCA to escape the sadness. I thought I might wear pajamas for a year, not be able to walk past his room, or say his name without breaking down into mental hospital psychosis. But guess what? None of that has happened. In fact, I’ve been doing really well! Knock me over with a miniscule feather from a petite bird.
I miss him, but not in any sort of debilitating way. I am guessing at least part of my ability to tolerate his absence is that I talk or text with him everyday. This has freed me up from thinking that he might be in a Spanish ditch somewhere, lets me know what he’s up to, shuts up the my fertile imagination, which can cook up dangerous and ridiculous scenarios. I am vicariously delighted when he tells me what he’s been doing, even though much of it is partying his face off. I am impressed with the way he has adjusted. I am proud of the adventurous nature he’s displaying.
I have spoken to a handful of mom’s who have been struggling with the transition in the way that I thought I would. A few are now empty nesters, which is a whole different thing. But some are just like me, with another kid or two at home still. The one thing we all agree on is that it’s a TRANSITION in 800 point type, all caps, bold. And for my money, transitions are never simple. They mean the exploration of a whole new way of doing things, a change in patterned behavior, the ability to morph from one way of being to another. It takes time to create the “after” script. It takes processing and energy to make a different kind of life.
I’m so grateful that I realized it would take me extra long to get myself ready for this new stage. I know if I hadn’t I could be wandering around Brookline with Lady Gaga hair, Courtney Love before she got all designer-y clothing, moaning like a ghost in a low budget horror film. It could literally have been “Nightmare on Elm Street.” But it’s not, it’s more like “The Kids are alright.” And so am I.