Letting Go

Audrey writes:

Last month, when my dear 25 year old daughter didn't respond to 2 or 3 phone calls over the course of 3 or 4 days, I got anxious. It doesn't make any sense. She's terrifically competent, widely traveled, and was in the Peace Corps for 2 years. She can take care of herself. And between law school, work, volunteering, and a rich social life, she's pretty busy. Still, after not hearing from her, my mommy brain kicked in. It was obvious to me that she was dead. Yes, I'm going to use that word.

When she first got her driving license and negelected to honor our agreement that she would call me when she'd reached her destination, I explained my “reasoning”,
“When I don't hear from you, I'm not thinking, gee, she's stopped to talk to friends, or she's just forgotten. No, I'm thinking:

I think that this over-the-top behavior is a vestigial primitive glitch that comes with your baby's birth. That baby's birth also brings the frightening realisation that we cannot always protect our children from this vast, dangerous world. This sense of helplessness can be taken way too far. At the nursery schools where I work, it is not the children who have separation anxiety, it is definitely the moms. Moms who come back for one more hug after the child is busy with her friends, moms who won't leave the classroom at all.

When my daughter left for the Peace Corps, after having already been away at college, there were folks in my town, including a couple of her high school teachers who said, “How can you let her go so far?” I didn't respond by saying that I thought her leaving was preferable to an alternate situation I've seen way too often; having one's child, his lover, and their baby living in one's basement.

Yes, letting go hurts. Yes, I cry. My son just graduated college and is living in New York City. My daughter just bought a scooter (and helmet) to commute to school and work. I miss both of my children and I understand that I need to stretch myself to cope with their widening horizons.
Me? I've just started a blog.

Kathy replies:

While Audrey was watching her son graduate from college, I was DC with my teenage sons. We were there to watch the younger one compete in a national competition, but decided to spend some time looking at colleges for the older one.

This is my first experience with this, and I’d like to think I handled it well. But on the inside, I was frantic. He wants to be in a city, he wants to travel abroad, DC is so far away! Of course I want all these things for him. I don’t know any boy more capable of handling it than him. But what if something like 9/11 happens again- we need to have a plan for him. I though about that all weekend, which kept me from thinking about the bigger issue. He will eventually leave, they all will. I can’t even think about it, without being reduced to tears. He is my first of four, and I can’t imagine not seeing him everyday. I can’t imagine going days without speaking to each other. They are my whole world. Thank God I have 2 years to get used to the idea. But will I? Ever?

But it does beat the alternative, as Audrey pointed out. Isn’t this what we want? To raise independent responsible people who can take care of themselves; adults who are not dependent on their parents for food, shelter and clothing well into their 30’s!

Maybe we just want them to check in and let us know they are alright. Pretend that they still need us. If they do that, maybe letting go won’t be so hard.

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