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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Setting Son

The Setting Son

You’d think that you’d get used to your kids leaving home. But you don’t. Every time one of them leaves it’s as heartbreaking as it was when the first one went. This time it’s my fourth kid. My only boy. This morning I crawled into bed beside him and started crying and told him not to leave me. What a loser. He kindly comforted me and told me I’d be ok. He doesn’t know that. But I will be ok. Eventually. I need to throw a few tantrums first though. Eventually this painful letting go thing will pass.

I felt his bony 6’4” body next to mine and wondered what happened to that little boy with the bright yellow hair and the crinkled smile. I can’t see him. I miss that sweet little boy. The little boy who had to be near me. For the first 12 months of his life he’d only sleep if his body was in proximity to mine. I spent a year just holding him. Then he slept in my bed until he was 7. Apparently it’s called attachment parenting. I’m glad it’s got a name. I thought it was the kind of lazy parenting I did because I could never set boundaries with my children. I breastfed them for so long that when I did it in public people looked away in disbelief. Eleven’s not too old is it?

It doesn’t feel that long ago. I can still remember him clinging to my leg. Insisting I pick him up and carry him. I’m really crying now. I’m morose this morning. I’m crying because I don’t want to let him go. I feel like he belongs to me. I made him. He can’t go. It’s why mothers can be so toxic. Especially mothers of sons. It’s hard to lose this sense of authorship over my kids. They’re books I may have attempted to edit, but I didn’t write their stories. I sure tried to though.

But every story I wrote for them they’d erase and write their own. And now my son is up to the part where you don’t need your mother anymore. The bit where the mother stands at the door and waves goodbye to the boy she made in her body. I remind him how big he was. Five kilos. The biggest birthweight baby they’d had in Randwick Royal Women’s in the year he was born. It was like landing a prize fish. Everyone wanted to see the big baby and the champion mother who’d birthed him in just over an hour. He was overdue by ten days. Back then he didn’t want to leave me. He was induced. Then finally, when he did leave, it was quick and it was violent.

Like today. He was going to have a gap year – a year at home with me, working and then travelling. Like the overdue baby, he was going to kickback in the womb. Mentally I hadn’t started the letting go process because he wasn’t going anywhere just yet. But his plans suddenly changed, and he’s going to Melbourne Uni which means moving to Melbourne. Apparently.

It’s like the violent induction all over again. He’s leaving in the next week. On Christmas Day he sorted his clothes. He cleaned out his cupboards. I’d been asking him to do that for years. Now I don’t want him to. I want to take everything that doesn’t fit him – the stuff that belongs to the boy he was and shove it back in his cupboard. The soccer clothes he’s outgrown, his school uniform, the dumb skater boy T-shirts. I wanted to make myself a nest from his discarded items and lie in it. Breathe in the boy that is no more. I’m not ready to put that boy in the Vinnies bin.

But that boy is gone. This boy is leaving me. On Boxing Day he sold his car. He’s ready. He’s excited about the next chapter of his life. I am too, I just wanted that extra year with him. This is what we work towards – creating independent young people ready to take on the world. He’s hard working, focused, creative and kind. He is a really nice person. He’s talented. He has great friendships. He is confident. He’s going to be ok. So I close the fourth door on that part of being a mother. Of reading him bedtime stories, of clipping him into his seat belt, of kissing his forehead goodnight. He’ll be back on holidays. A voice on the phone. A friend on Facebook.  My Charlie. My glorious Charlie. Oh god, I’m going to miss him. Hey, I just thought of something – can I come too?


20 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Setting Son”

  1. Nancy says:

    Mandy, if you think letting your son go is hard, well get ready to see if you can stay out of his life! No in the sense of never seeing him again, but by letting him make his own decisions. This could entail about who he loves and wants to eventually settle down with, or how he wants to keep his home (only if it’s opposite to yours!) or what he likes to wear or keep his hair. I’ll tell you, keeping your mouth shut about all that is harder than letting him go.
    As he gets older, the more you will not be able to interfere even if you see him going down what you think is the wrong path. Now that’s true letting go.
    But hopefully he will learn by his mistakes and be the man that you hope him to be. Having sons now in their 40’s has taught me my favourite saying to them, “you’ll figure it out son”. It is so liberating!

    • Butt Ugly Martian says:

      Try having a son that came to you when he needed you or wanted to and then joined the Military and decided to only see you for a few minutes and spends more time in his time off with anyone but you. My heart is broken and I have no idea why he stopped. I don’t want to get old. If I do…. I just God to take me quick. I don’t want to be alone and old. Prayers to every mother or father in a home with no visitors. Life is too short. I really don’t know what I did or if it’s even me at all or just the US Military. I just no that I want my son back and I want him to be happy,

      • Nancy says:

        Oh dear you seem sad but IF your son has kids one day, I can PROMISE you he will be back in touch. And maybe with an apology to boot. Then you won’t mind getting old because you will need to stay alive to watch the grandkids grow! But you will have to keep shut about how he raises his kids!
        In the meantime you sound like you need to go do some volunteer work and meet people. There’s nothing wrong with getting old and being alone. Not be “lonely” needs a concentrated effort to be and stay happy. Good Luck!

  2. Michael McDougall says:

    What a beautiful and emotional story. And what an amazing Mum you are Mandy. A mum to your kids.
    A mum to your community. A mum to your comedy class tribe. A Mum to those in need.
    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. It might be a universal journey but it is still painful to have those you love finally detach to start their own ‘big person’ part of it.
    There will no doubt be good times ahead!

  3. Frank Corns says:

    Perfect example of the bubble you build when you breed. Breeding is the most selfish, egotistical act one can do today. There’s no justification for it by the mere fact that there’s nothing to give them. The worlds resources are quickly dwindling as the 3rd world rises saying us too. Fukushima continues and will go on because we don’t know how to stop it. Just announced that they’ll be releasing those billions of gallons of poisoned water into the Pacific to distribute it. The demographics are clear, there is no future. There is no hope. Breeding is often simply a way out. A way out of reality for some women to bail out of the rat race. Sometimes a way to trap a man and sometimes as a way to access resources that wouldn’t have been there without it. Once you made that leap, you constantly have to justify it for the rest of your life because you sacrificed your life to raise the little brats. It’s a one way street. For me, there isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I’m not grateful for not having children. Once you get over the insane maternal urge to reproduce, you can see that there is no justification for it. It’s an instinct that is better over come. Financially, morally or realistically. It’s hard for you to let go of Charlie because you used him as justification for your existence.

    • Love that a man says ‘Once you get over the insane maternal urge to reproduce, you can see that there is no justification for it’.
      Dude? You’re a bloke. You don’t get to talk about the ‘insane maternal urge’ so let’s just be clear about that. Until you’re a woman, you don’t get to do that. You have a [email protected] and balls (presumably) you don’t get to talk about how ‘maternal urges’ feel. OK?
      Now, [email protected]? Yep, you get to talk about how that feels – go’ head.

      • BubbleBurster says:

        Wow sexist much? Love when a women pulls ‘you don’t understand cause your a man’ card.

        I think it’s only appropriate that people start to question whether it’s morally right to have so many kids. Just because it’s a maternal instinct for women to have children doesn’t mean it’s impossible to overcome. There’s plenty else to do in this world than have kids. Fact of the matter is a lot of women have kids cause they would rather do that than a career. I have friends that have told me that. Get off your feminist high horse.

        • Not sexist at all – pretending to know how any woman feels by saying ‘the insane maternal urge to reproduce’ is VERY sexist. Calling any woman’s urge for anything ‘insane’ to suit your purposes is sexist.

          Now if I said men have an ‘insane urge to prove they are always right,’ then that would be sexist. How on earth would I know how insane a man feels when he is proven wrong?

          • Oh Eve you really nailed that guy. I am also grateful he didn’t have children because he’s a very sexist nasty man. We don’t need more of that heartless DNA in the world!

      • Andy Cummins says:

        Mandy, Insults are the last refuge of the out argued. Believe it or not men have a maternal urge to reproduce too. Franks comment was not pointed at one sex or another but you try to turn it into a sexist comment. Typical chauvinism.

  4. Michelle says:

    Good grief! Your enmeshment harms your adult son. No wonder he is going to Melbourne. See a counsellor.

  5. Isn’t it by far [“as the saying goes”] ‘better to have loved
    & lost than to have never loved at all’. Mandy’s son is
    not a new-born & is sure to have his mother’s traits. An
    intelligent & caring man’s not something to label as a
    ‘grown brat’. You – sir – discomforted by what’s needed
    in this world, are full of useless words & inaction. The
    best assumptions most muttering males can come up
    with can’t make the grade. Go help fix the state we are
    all in & quit buck-passing the blooming obvious. It’s
    known as ‘have some guts’.

  6. robot says:

    Same as the last article, wjy do we hate women … samo samo, they give us birth … Greer wanted a child and was denied, proposed a woman’s life started past fertility. A man is not so constrained, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it.
    Otherwise a heart-rending story: hearts can be rent.

  7. Nancy says:

    Can I say that is an awful photograph. Clearly Mandy and son lack self awareness, and what’s more humility.

    • The Real Nancy says:

      Who wrote this because I did not! Mandy I hope you see this because I did not write this!
      Some one used my name and I have a feeling who it is. You know how I feel about you. I thought your story was funny and heartfelt.
      As a mother to older sons I just wanted you to know that it gets harder. Please don’t believe that last post as it wasn’t me! Check the email address. If it’s mine then that troll used it because they know me!

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