Jun 09, 2021
4 mins read
My children, at 19 and 17, have grown into manhood. They are competent, confident, strong, kind young men. They are creative, they are hard-working, they are community-minded, altruistic, and funny as hell. They are best friends and they talk and laugh together all day. They do their share of housework, they feed and clothe themselves, they take roadtrips together, they clean their rooms and make dinner for the family once a week.
They speak up as citizens. They are kind to animals and small children. They have a host of friends, boyfriends, they have private lives, they have their work and interests, they share a boisterous sense of humor and demolish their father and I with their quick wit.
They are everything you'd want, from sons.
And I'm devastated.
They are (near-)grown, and honestly? They don't need me like they used to. They don't need me like they used to, and they never will again.
And I have not got with the program yet. I've seen it coming, I knew it was coming. And I'm stuck. I'm in small agonies over it.
Please don't tell me to "be grateful" for what I have. Please don't tell me things could be worse. (Things can always be worse!) Please don't tell me This is what's supposed to happen, this is how it's supposed to go.
Yes, I am aware of that.
Please don't tell me This means you've done a good job parenting. Sure. Yeah, we have.
None of this gives me much comfort.
See, I know what we've done in raising them, was right for them. They're in great shape.
I'm falling apart.
I devoured every bit of Eden I could have, with my children. We unschooled which means I spent more time with my own kids than about 97% of American parents and carers. I lived almost two decades in this Paradise: endless bike rides and "school" projects and nature walks and baking bread and putting around in a grubby garden or two and splashing in brooks and swimming in the sea and cuddling up watching silly old movies and buying loads of sweets and eating them all up before dinner. I cooked them three meals a day and I sewed for them and I laughed at their play and their music and I took them to museums or educational centers or more often just to get pizza or go to the damn grocery store. We explored parks, we took long walks on lonely trails, we dallied in the library, we caught newts at the lake.
I had time and time and time and more time.
Everything I have in my creativity, any spark of magic in my hands is in direct proportion to my children's example, and to the hard-won expertise in raising two little wolf cubs and letting them tear my heart up. We are all immutably changed by our loved ones, and in my case when I think of my sons I know I am nothing without them. It isn't that I wouldn't have been someone otherwise, it is that as it happens they manifested and they kept manifesting and now they are wound around my very DNA.
They go about their lives with friends and lovers and jobs and passion projects and I'm left absolutely bereft of the years of physical closeness.
I ate up every bit of time I could.
And as it turns out, it wasn't enough.
I'm glad we raised our children the way we did. I have no doubts whatsoever on that point. I knew there would be dividends even when many people said I was being very foolish - well, I was right and they were wrong.
One quibble: no one told me "Empty Nest" was unavoidable even if and when you have a full fucking life. Because I do, I have a life. I have a fantastic partner, I have a lot of lovely, supportive friends. I have my own work and I love it. I have my volunteer work, I have my vocation and my avocations. I have my regular bullshit I get up to.
And I am proud of myself for not foisting this hurt on my children. It's not their problem - at all. I am a strong parent - I honor their privacies, their agency. I text before I walk up the steps to their rooms. I knock. I don't "knock and then enter": I knock and then refrain. I wait. I text more often than not, because that is their preferred method of communication.
I approach them with respect: not just physically and electronically, but in conversation. I ask questions about their plans, their inner lives; if they seem unreceptive or guarded (as they often do!), I back off.
They are men; they are adults. They deserve my consideration - just as they did, as small children. In some fundamental way that surely some do-gooders will try to reassure me about, I know that they are no longer Mine - and it was a grave mistake that I ever thought they were.
Converting my years' worth of body memories of the boys who used to literally hang on my body, who would not let me eat a meal without physically being on my lap somehow, who breastfed until ages two and three and slept with me until ages ten and thirteen -
converting those boys into men who I do not touch without permission, men whom I offer and invite but never command or nag or grab - men who fill my heart with anguish on the regular not due to any cruelty on their parts but simply their not-need of me (for now) -
It's a real fucking trip.
A real fucking trip.
I look forward to my next heartbreak.