This week my son, seen here with his older sister, turned 30.
Somehow, that seems like a personal milestone not just for him, but for me; a signal that my work is done, and it’s time to move on to the next phase of my life. The ‘apron strings’ that bind us are now well and truly untied, and he was unequivocal in his advice that a surprise arrival at his 30th birthday party in New York would not be a good idea!
The fact that I even thought of doing that – of arriving unannounced into the midst of his well planned weekend with his friends, full of fabulous events – made me think about just how irrational this mother-son bond actually is.
I was reminded of what the wonderfully insightful Celia Lashlie said in her book about “growing gorgeous boys into good men”. Something about your son crossing a bridge, and if you, Mum, try to follow him onto the bridge, he just wants to push you off it. You need to stay off that bridge.
What happens when the bridge in question is physical rather than metaphorical, and he’s actually leaving (or has left)?
This week my best friend packed her own (much younger) son off to the other side of the world – and seemed to me to be at least thinking (if not behaving) irrationally. I told her that even after 8 years of living on opposite ends of the world, and despite seeing my now 30 son in person at least once a year, and sometimes more often that, I still have days when I just want to drop everything I’m doing, rush to the airport and get on the plane. How is it that after nearly a decade of living so far away, I can still feel that loss of his presence so achingly clearly?
Is it hormonal, I wondered – a menopausal effect that causes mothers to lose their minds just, coincidentally, at the same time as their precious sons are leaving home? A non-causal correlation, perhaps? Or even more alarmingly, perhaps that loss of rationality is an effect of ageing – a dying off of that part of the brain that we relied on in the past to moderate our behaviour?
Fortunately, in my case, I have a completely rational husband at my side, who understands that I’m not actually going crazy, even if I occasionally behave so; that those moments of longing do pass, even if they make me a basket-case for a day or two on the way through; and that if all else fails, he can always buy me a ticket to London (though it hasn’t even come to that yet).
So I guess there’s a message in all of this, a message for mothers that says:
Your son has left your home, to make a home of his own.
It’s perfectly normal for you to feel bereft,
and continue feeling bereft on an occasional basis, forever.
Occasional irrational thoughts (or even behaviours) do not mean you’re losing your mind.
And a message for sons:
Your mother loves you, misses you, and occasionally (hopefully not too often)
will do or say something inappropriate, irrational or just plain embarrassing.
You do not need to rush home to deal with it – just say “love you Mum” and move on (please!)
and continuing forging your fabulous way in the world
(because that’s what she actually wants you do to).
And a message for fathers:
Your son’s mother has not lost her marbles. She’s just being a mother.
Rational arguments have no place in this situation, nor telling her to ‘get a grip’.
This too will pass.
(And meanwhile, stand by with that ticket to London!)