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?