My second son is going away to college today. My heart strings are being pulled beyond compare. This child at 18 represents my heart more than any other part of me. Each son – I have four – seems to have brought me a different understanding and reflection at times of my own, true self. They have given me far more than I have given them. This son has shown me how to understand silence; how to find a path when it’s foggy; how to fail; how to love.
He sleeps now, as they all do, during these summer mornings. Our house has been full with my eldest son’s band staying here for three months. Some called me crazy, loving the madness of this energy but happy to then go home at the end of the night back to their calm. But I found it calming here. Probably because I knew it would end. Just as we all settled into our rhythm, it would change again. And now here I am drinking coffee with summer bug bites raging on my ankles knowing in a few hours everything for my son will change forever.
Of course they’ll come back, as my husband reminds me daily whilst picking up socks strewn around the house. Of course they will. But each time they come back it will be measured. What pulls my heart is that the end of their childhood is also drawn in the sand when they take off for college. All you can hope for is that they are ready, able and fully willing to fly. That has been my job all these years. His wings needed to be strong and powerful and with this son, they needed to also be soft and flexible.
At nearly two he still hadn’t spoken much. His elder brother used to speak for him. ‘He wants this to drink…eat….play with’. It was frustrating for me as I felt I couldn’t connect with him well. I didn’t know how to listen then and I certainly didn’t know how to hear him. Over the years when feelings got the better of him, he would hide. Try scolding a child you can’t find! It took me such a long, long time to understand that his silence was part of his processing and that his hiding was an ability to make sense out of all that he was feeling. His emotional intelligence far exceeds most. To this day I know when he’s really, really mad because he goes incredibly quiet.
My husband, on the other hand, is very loud. He loves and lives out loud. The good news about that is all the boys always know where they stand, where they are with him. I worried about those dynamics with this son and his incredibly different way of being. It was a few years ago when I saw the full shift and knew his wings were being constructed. It wasn’t a fight, per say, just a loud discussion about this or that but he stood there grounded and said his piece without faltering. He didn’t go quiet or hide away; he found that he could translate his emotions into words and argued back. When he finally walked away I couldn’t help but feel proud.
We packed his bag yesterday – I waited till the last minute for this exercise. One, because boys don’t much care about what clothes get taken, aside from a particular hoodie or pair of shoes, and two, because I didn’t want to see the suitcase out for long. I know I must be strong for him and I will. That’s the mother in me talking. That’s what we do as mothers. We are whatever they need us to be. Like I said, they show us in the end how dynamic we can be ourselves. Today is a day about letting him fly, watching him soar, embracing the space between us.