My youngest, Joshua, would ask that every day when he came home from basketball practice. With a big, wide smile like that of “Sesame Street’s” Ernie, my son would saunter across the room and kiss me on the cheek.
We’ve had the same routine every day for many years. And now I have to start getting used to not hearing his voice as often and just getting my kiss every Saturday.
Joshua started college life a couple of weeks ago. Apart from no longer anticipating his return from school daily, I also don’t do things for him as much anymore. But I still see the cute, vibrant toddler I used to carry in my arms 16 years ago.
The feeling is quite different with my eldest son, Mark, who is quite mature for his age. He also stayed in a dorm and has since finished college. I remember feeling the same anxiety and sadness then. And now, Mark will be starting his first job.
Parenting as priority
But there is something about seeing your youngest child go off to college and live in a dorm six days a week. While writing this, I’ve had to pause and wipe my tears.
Mark is in his room, and though he misses his brother, too, I am sure both of them are thankful they were able to spend the summer together and bond as brothers should.
When they were tykes, each would wrap their arms around my legs and I would walk across the room. We all enjoyed the makeshift carnival ride because, at the time, I could not afford to bring them to one. We’ve gone through a lot since then, but I always made parenting my priority, anticipating the time they would grow up and lead their own lives.
“Who will do your laundry there?”
“Did you bring your pillow and blanket?”
“Make sure you eat well, Joshua.”
“Ma, I’m going home for the weekend. Don’t worry, I can take care of myself.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks, directly aimed at my heart. He did not intend to hurt my feelings, though; he simply reassured me that he would be fine.
I found myself thinking, “So what do I do now?”
I started writing about the three of us about seven years ago; I must say that once your child hits the last years of his teenage life, a deluge of short- and long-term memories take over your emotional brain.
Simultaneously, the idea of being on my way to my empty nest stage resonates in the background. Our place will be much quieter from now on during weekdays, and it will take a lot of getting used to.
Nevertheless, I know that if I stuck with the feeling of sadness, it really wouldn’t change anything.
Funny how we celebrate each milestone of our children’s lives as they grow up, but find ourselves at a loss when the time comes for us to let them go—well, maybe still tied to the proverbial leash, but this time, we have to make it much longer.
Looking at the bright side, my son staying in a dorm and also engaging in sports can teach him to be more responsible for himself and accountable for his actions because there are rules to follow. The next step for me would be to start accepting this change, and think of things to do to replace all that time I spent caring for my two sons.
Not so bad
So far, without neglecting my work, I have remade and hand-sewn more than a dozen shirts, unearthed hidden treasures while organizing my room, appreciated some rest and soul-searching, while currently obsessed with my pet cat, Kitiket.
Realizing your kids have reached the point when they seek out what the world has laid out for them can be quite trying. And although I know that learning to let go is part of their natural development, they deserve to go on that journey, too, as we did many years ago.
Do we have a choice? As difficult it is to accept, not at this point. The best we can do, however, is to continue to assure them that we will be with them in their life journey. They might ask us to step aside once in a while, or (and this is so hard to say) more often. But we will always pray and hope for the best for them.
Well, I will still get to see Mark when he comes home from work, and Joshua on the weekends. I’m sure it won’t be so bad.
It will be hard not being the navigator or even the back seat driver in our child’s ride for life, but as much as our kids are going through their natural development, we must also focus on ours. And this is how I plan to inspire myself in the years to come.
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