I can remember when my wings sprouted and I longed to fly the coop. All I wanted was to be on my own and what I perceived to be free. I took any and every opportunity to do my own thing (for better or worse) and I’m not sure I even blinked when it was actually time to move out of the house and into the dorm.
I don’t remember my mom being sad. Maybe she was ready for me to go! Or maybe she is a more mature person than I and managed to hide herself in the bathroom and cry her eyes out when I couldn’t see. I’ll go for the latter.
Here I am sitting in Kijabe, Kenya, visiting the 3 boys and applying for school for my daughter, and I can’t get it out of my mind; the fact that this is my oldest son’s last mid-term break.
I find myself staring at him, hanging on his words, making up stupid things to talk about just to keep the conversation going, fussing over him and desperate to hug and kiss him and say sweet things that only a mother can say to a son, all the while trying not to embarrass him too much.
Does he even know what it means for him to go? No.
But it is time and he is ready.
I’m pretty sure he will make some stupid mistakes along the way and may or may not tell me about them. He may even meet a girl and fall in love.
There goes my position as the most important woman in his life.
It’s just around the corner. The day I give him a kiss and a hug, say goodbye, tell him to be a good friend and work hard, and a zillion other bits of sage advice which I will try to cram into the last 30 seconds of seeing him. I’m pretty sure I will succeed in teaching him all of life’s lessons in the final minutes of my goodbye. It is a parent’s duty.
I watched him run off to class today and noticed that he is a breathtakingly beautiful man. I like who he has become. He is ready. It is time.
I can imagine drop-off day at the school. In my mind it’s an endless sea of moms sobbing through their goodbyes, heartbroken that their kids did the unexpected thing and grew up. It was kind of like that when we all deposited our children at boarding school. I have history with this.
During the bus ride home the sobbing moms will be acutely aware that they are in the same boat yet fully married to the attitude that no one understands. This is when I’ll stand up and say, “What are you all crying for? You’ll see your kid next weekend.” (I’ve got a bit of pent up jealous anger for crying sad moms who will be living within driving distance of their college aged kids.)
And this is the true and honest question of mine; can I cope? Can I say goodbye to him full well knowing it could be a year… or more… until I see him again?
When I signed up to be a missionary, I did not sign up for this. I did not count the cost of children growing up and attending university. I did not foresee my son living on a different continent. I was sure that they would remain 10 years old forever, but here we are, just weeks from the day when he first sets foot onto the soil of adulthood, and we’ll be down one with three to go. Praying this thing gets easier before we send off the last, but just as soon as I say that, I remind myself that I never want it to be easy to release our children into adulthood.
I am worried. Worried that he’ll not just do stupid stuff, but do really, really stupid stuff. I’m worried that I’m wrong; that he’s not ready and he will need to come home with a failure ripping big holes into his heart. I’m worried that he’ll forget to call home and leave us desperate to know if he is dead or alive, happy or sad, thriving or … not.
Yah… I know. My spirituality and maturity rating just fell to zero, but there’s nothing rational about a mother’s love for her children. I guess I am no exception.
If you are on the same bus as me, sending your kids off this year, let’s make a deal. I won’t tell you I’ve got it much, much worse because I live in Africa and my son is moving to the U.S., but please, please don’t tell me how rough you have it when yours doesn’t want to come home until Thanksgiving. I am insanely jealous. In my better moments, I know this is irrational and surely there are moms who have it unspeakably worse than me, but honestly, it is where I am.
Instead, in a move toward motherhood solidarity, I’ll bring a box of tissues and we’ll share the common thread of missing mommy-hood and all the joys that having our kids at home brought us. We might even come to our senses and remember the countless ways our kids challenged us. (Err… made us seriously consider pediatric tranquilizers as a long-term solution.) We’ll replace the tears with laughter; the kind that makes your cheeks hurt and your sides ache. We’ll have a great old time with a glass of wine and celebrate each other for a job well done… children who not only want to fly the coop, but can FLY.
One down with three to go!
Previously published here.
Jennifer Taylor is a married mother of four serving her second missionary assignment in Zambia. She and her husband work with a local pastor and his wife in a community building effort in an under-served, semi-rural area. She loves to write, learn, and teach and is a strong advocate for sustainable living. To learn more about the Taylors, please visit, robandjennifer.