Monday, December 22, 2008

A mother's lament

As I write this, my firstborn is beginning a new life 500 miles away.

I blame myself. If I’d allowed him to have a toy gun as a child, maybe he wouldn’t be reporting to the DC Metropolitan Police Academy in the predawn darkness three days before Christmas.

But this also is the child who skirted the gun ban by making weapons out of everything: sticks, rulers, even processed cheese. He’s also the son who loved to dress up in uniforms as a child. Although this made it easier when it came time to begin Catholic school, I had hoped the astronaut getup would be the one following him into adulthood.

Instead, he's thrilled to be starting a career in law enforcement in the nation’s capital, which is ironically the same “big city” life we escaped 13 years ago and where his younger brother now attends college.

I awoke unusually early this morning, worrying as his 7 a.m. report time neared. Did he wake up on time? Were his shoes polished? Did traffic delay him? The weather report says it was 16 degrees and clear so there was no snow or ice to make him late. But maybe he’s cold: he doesn’t own a dress coat to wear over his suit.

It took every ounce of restraint I possess not to call his cell phone. But I think of him with every mile he drives and every step he takes to the front door of the academy where he will spend the next 28 weeks.

I know he has to do this alone. And yes, I know this is part of life. We want our children to be independent and chart their own courses in life. But it does not prevent my tears at 7 a.m. There’s no turning back now. He’s truly left us.

How strange this all feels. As Husband No. 1 observes, we’ve been with this child through 23 years of school, sports, activities, etc. I remember his first day of preschool, elementary school, high school and college – and his last ones, too. Now he’s beginning the most exciting phase of his life and we aren’t with him. Nobody warned us about this part of parenting.

Some say this experience is not unlike what happens when you sell a novel. After being totally immersed in its development, day and night, sometimes for years, your progeny leaves your control and takes on its own life. If you’re lucky, it reappears in a polished form you recognize.

Will my son become a man I no longer recognize? I pray not. But there’s no doubt he will have experiences I could never imagine. I am proud that he's taking a huge leap into his future. But the Mom part of me is a little sad about how far that leap is taking him away from me.


MaxWriter said...

Pat, you write beautifully about this bittersweet stage in the parenting path. My elder child is just a year younger but next year will be off somewhere else, too. Sometimes I cry just looking at my two handsome smart sweet young men and wonder where in heck the time went.

Barb said...

A beautiful column. This is my first Christmas without my son who got married this year and is spending the holiday with his new in-laws. We'll miss him alot, but also recognize that his relationship with his wife has been so close for years that asking them to split up for Christmas was kind of ridiculous.

It happens to us all. In some ways it's worse if it doesn't. I still chuckle about my friend who said of her son, "I don't mind that Jason is finding himself. I just wish he wasn't doing it locally."

Best wishes to your son. He's picked a hard row to hoe, but one I hope he finds very fulfilling.


PS I got assigned the Wasperole for Christmas dinner.

Pat Remick said...

Thanks Edith and Barb. It's nice to know I'm not alone in this experience, which is more difficult than I ever imagined -- especially the being separated at Christmas part.
Maybe some of our own Christmas dinner "WASP-erole" (Barb's family name for the infamous green bean casserole with Durkee fried onions on top) will help ease the pain somewhat....though I'm doubtful...LOL

Anonymous said...

Wow! My heart was aching as I read this. I could actually feel your pain. It is beautifully written. I LOL with the Husband No. 1 comment!
As I still have my three under my roof, I'll cut them some extra slack when the bickering begins and think about what you wrote. You have a lot to be proud of Pat. Two strong secure young men out in the world. You did good Mama. Peace.

sheila said...

They leave home excited and full of optimism for their adult "away" life but they do keep the connection to the safe haven of home. Plus, we prepare better meals so we can rest assured they at least come back for food.
I think you have permission to call tonight to see how the training went.
I marvel at your restraint this morning. I think my dial finger would've been twitching, wondering if the alarm worked, if he remembered everything, on and on...Be proud that he is accomplished enough to achieve his goals and that you encouraged him to do so.
Re:Hair - I absolutely would've come to the closet at City Hall and done your hair.

Anonymous said...

"Wasp-erole?" In our family they're either called "Susie Beans" (for Sue Ann) or "Terri Beans," because they are the only ones who will eat it.

Pat Remick said...

Thanks everyone for your kind thoughts. This is definitrly an unexpectedly difficult part of motherhood....