Sunday, May 10, 2015

Must You Grow Up?

It’s graduation time around our city. Friends are posting pictures on social media of their beautiful daughters and dashing sons on their way to this dance or that dinner. The sun sparkles off wine glasses while pastel-coloured teenaged butterflies float about in the background and that boy you thought was 11 or 12 struts past the corner of the photo in killer suit looking like he might take over the world.

These images look to be the picture of happiness and achievement, and they are; but there’s something else going on too. You can’t fool me. Look closely at any one of these mothers and you might see a dark smudge of mascara under the eye, or perhaps a tell-tale Kleenex in hand. She might have a far-away look in her eye as a smaller, much younger version of her son or daughter runs across her memories: a stick in his hand and grass-stained pants falling down, a princess dress disappearing between the trees, or a tiny figure with a sippy cup in one hand and a cracker in the other.

Or perhaps she’s missing from this picture. Trust me when I tell you it’s not because she didn’t want to be there; it’s because she had to make a hasty retreat to the bathroom when the tears threatened. They come on so quickly in these situations it’s sometimes hard to manage them and the only thing to be done is run away. She’ll be back, and you’ll see her in later pictures, this time with her sunglasses on, no matter the sun has already gone down and everyone has moved inside.

I agree, unless you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to understand the depth of emotion we mothers feel when it looks like our kids are moving on. A year ago I was the mother in the pictures. My son  Jacob graduated, then left a few days later for a summer-long job as a fishing guide several hundred kilomteres away and I am pretty sure I cried every day for the preceding two months. I was actually getting fed up with myself I cried so much but the fact remained: there was nothing to be done about it. I couldn’t help it. I knew he would be back in September for a GAP year but still, I cried.

This year, we’re getting ready for him to leave again except this time, he’ll only be home for a few days in September and then he’s leaving again to go several hundred kilometres in another direction to go to school. So this time, it really feels like this is it. And it’s also exactly what he should do. It’s what we have been aiming for all these years of chaotic mornings and forgotten gym bags, of choir concerts and rugby injuries and piles of wet towels left on the floor. But none of that makes it any easier. It’s like we have unfinished business and we want to run screaming after our kids: Wait! I’m not ready! I haven’t finished that bookcase for your room yet! And I still need to make that rainbow unicorn cake for your birthday! And we haven’t watched Titanic together yet…

At least that how I feel. My daughter looks at me like I have lost my mind when I talk like that. But that’s because she still doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. One day she’ll be the one holding up a tiny shirt she found in the basement and sobbing uncontrollably.

So here’s some advice to all the mothers whose daughters and sons are graduating, going off to jobs or school, or moving away from home: don’t try and stop that feeling.

It’s the crux of the matter.

It’s what we mothers are made of and we can’t deny it. I say embrace the ugly cry. Hide in the bathroom if you need to. Wail. Wonder how you’re going to manage. Try to make it all better with butter and sugar or drink that half bottle of Jack Daniels you found under your son’s bed. But trust me, you will get through this and you will feel better - until then, hang in and lean on the rest of us who have been there already.

And just wait until you’ve had a couple of weeks with no wet towels to pick up then you’ll know what I mean.

J & J

1 comment:

  1. As Jade's graduation day approaches, more quickly than I would like, reading this really helped. I'm glad to know that I am not alone in this feeling. Enjoying it all, but tinged with a sadness and worry all the same. Thanks for the insight Jane!!