That’s what you will think and therefore what you will feel.
It’s gone – all that love, complicity, laughter, camaraderie – gone. Now they just look at me with suspicion, frustration, anger or apathy.
My teenage boys of course. Who else could love you so fiercely and devotedly for so many years (their entire lifetime) and then abandon you like an old blanky they outgrew? Ouch.
Oh believe me I struggled with letting go, with the dawning reality that they didn’t want me to walk with them in public, or call them by their nicknames in front of their friends, or go to the movies with me anymore. It hurt me to the core and the sense of betrayal was very real.
I’m sorry, but I have dedicated virtually every waking minute of the past 15 years to helping you grow into the most wonderful version of yourself and when you get close to the finish line you just dis me? Hell naw! No way. Your egocentric little teenage butt should be thanking me day and night!
But looking back, I can see that all of that disassociation and push back was needed. They had to prepare to fly the coop, to go off to the military, college, summer internships. Otherwise if we were still glued at the hip and if they were dependent on me for everything it would have been a disastrous launch into adulthood…for both of us. As it was I barely survived, and that was after several years of them slowly peeling me off like duct tape.
I had to learn (crash course, as most of parenting turns out to be) to gingerly step over the dividing line between mothering and simply being a supporting and loving adult – one who lets them make their own decisions. Even ones including whether or not they want to hang out with me. And sometimes they did – while many times they didn’t.
This suddenly lonely phase is the one in which we look to our spouse (if you are blessed to have one whom you still enjoy being with) and reinvent your life, choosing new hobbies, trips, activities which now involve … only you.
And trust me, the void will be real and it will be deep and some days suffocating. But you will get through. And somewhere along the line you will figure out – it’s not that they don’t love you anymore. You’re their mom for crying out loud – don’t you love YOUR mom? (OK, I think we can all agree that things with moms can get real complicated real fast, but unless your mom was a pretty horrible human being, you will feel some enduring attachment towards her even today). Your kids will always love you. It’s just that after age 4 we slowly go from being number 1 in their lives to being somewhere in the teens…
I aim to be one of their top ten these days. I’ll be happy with that.
One night I remember my husband telling me, as I was laying in the dark with hot tears streaming down my face, that the simple fact was that our children would never love us as much as we love them. At the time I felt this was terribly unfair, but it actually makes sense. We are their caretakers, their protectors, their providers and cheerleaders. We have to center our lives around them. And the goal is NOT to have them center their lives around us… I want them to go out and experience life! I want them to travel and have adventures, not be afraid to take risks, fall in love, make lifelong friends and a good living… If they sat around worrying about me the way I do about them, I would actually worry even more.
So cheer up moms. They still love us! Not to the frenzied level with which we love them, and that is as it should be. But it’s still love, and as they mature it will as well. They may even surprise you with a call every so often just to say hi. They will come visit when you bribe them with food (and beer). You will develop a healthy friendship with them as adults over time, once you get over your own parental egocentricity. Because let’s face it – if I truly did all of those things for so many years only for them, shouldn’t I be happy to watch them fly the nest? Ugh. Fine. Somewhere deep down maybe I needed love and was trying to get that filled by my child? Woah, let’s not go all psychoanalytic and just stay in the shallow waters here.
Base line is – we love them, they love us, we raise them, they leave to make a life. So take a step back and a deep breath girl – they still love you, and they always will.