Emotional Whiplash

I’ve been afraid of changin’
Cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I’m getting older, too
(From the Stevie Nicks song, “Landslide”)

Two weeks ago, we had a plan, or so I thought. My 21-year-old (who prefers the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”) would continue to live with us for at least several weeks, while continuing college. Their significant other would move into the house as well, temporarily, from the small town where they can’t find work. The S.O. would seek employment here and the two of them would eventually get an apartment in our city, maybe in two to three months.

Eight days ago, I was helping my college junior collect bugs for an entomology lab. The next day — one week ago tonight — the offspring announced that friends in Colorado had a room open and said both of them could move in there. In fact, it would happen over the coming weekend. Both of them would look for jobs once they got to the new place. Friday, my kid withdrew from college and started packing. Sunday night the abductors new roommates arrived and slept at our house, while I spent a sleepless night stalking them on-line. Early Monday morning, they packed what they could fit into a Mazda hatchback and drove off to collect my child’s S.O. before continuing to Colorado.

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Sigh.

This is what young adults will do to their parents. Their life plans change so suddenly and drastically, they leave us with emotional whiplash. I said, “I brought you a stink bug from the garden and this is the thanks I get?”

I had a vision in my mind of getting to know their partner better, helping the young couple furnish their first apartment together, being close enough to have them over for dinner once a week. Calling up occasionally and saying, “Hey, let’s go to a movie, my treat.” Something gradual. Something that would give me time to prepare mentally and emotionally. A bachelor’s degree was in the vision somewhere, too.

I cried real tears. A lot of them, to be honest. My husband even had a little weeping the morning they left. But I suppose the joy of being twenty-one years old lies in being old enough to make your own decisions, but young enough not to be bogged down with worries of everything that could go wrong. The world is out there waiting for you to discover it. $700 in the bank, no car and no job lined up? Eh, it’ll work out.

I spent so many years immersed in the lives and needs of my two children and my mother. Adding in the job I do for a paycheck, I had little time for anything else. Now I suddenly find myself with only my husband and a houseful of pets. In a short period of time, my mom passed away and both kids moved out. At least the 18-year-old will be home for holidays, school breaks and some weekends. He’s doing it the correct way, in other words.

Since I often cope with anxiety and sadness through the use of humor, I gave my firstborn about ten minutes after pulling out of our driveway (roommate driving) then sent a text saying “We rented your room.” A few hours later, I followed up with “I sold the rest of your stuff on Ebay.” I suppose it’s not exactly like sending your kid off on a ship to America from the Irish shore in the 19th century, expecting never to see them again and not even to know for several months whether they arrived safely.

When this child was six, they promised to live with me forever. Liar. Or maybe they simply meant in my heart and mind. I admit, the former feels as if it has a big hole in the middle right now and the latter is still spinning.

 

 

 

 

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3 responses »

  1. I’m a terribly emotional person sometimes, particularly when it comes to the idea –the very concept that my children may one day be grown, and thus, fly away from the nest. This post hits me in a personal way, because a) my eldest is quick approaching that time where she will be ready to stretch out her wings (well, I got a few years left, but it’s still coming too quickly), and b) she used to tell me how she would never grow up, never leave me. Now it’s my little one telling me those lies (technically only the one –she’s never pretended that she wouldn’t grow up, only that she wouldn’t leave me when she did) and I’m not sure I can even imagine what my life will be like when they’re both gone. More truthfully, I don’t want to imagine it.
    Ah well, great post none the less… may they visit you often and call every day.

    • Thanks for the heartfelt comments. When our babies are newborn we can’t imagine them walking, but we get used to it when it happens. I suppose I’ll get used to this, too. There’s a lot to be said for being present with your children where they are this moment, rather than fretting too much about the future.

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