Well, every summer, I suck it up, pretend I’m not dying inside, and kiss the boys good-bye for eight weeks while they visit their dad in Georgia. Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to live without hovering, without controlling, without planning every minute of every day… and in the end, the lessons ended up being a lot harder than I thought for. Turns out, when you’ve lived your life for other people, getting to know yourself is kind of a tricky (and a time consuming) thing.
Oh, and it was only the beginning.
Nick will be 18 in just a few short weeks. Just when I had figured out the art of dropping them off at the airport without becoming a blubbering mess every summer, my son came home with a nice heart-stopping bombshell. And because he knows me so well, he made sure to drop it in the middle of a crowded restaurant during the dinner rush.
My baby boy is planning to move to another state after he graduates high school.
Learning to live life on my own terms for a summer visit is one thing; the thought of a vast and desolate future was something different. Okay, maybe that’s a little (lot) over-dramatic, but seriously, in that restaurant, he continued to talk but all I could hear was my heart beating in my ears. I could breathe, with some difficulty, but as quiet as the world had been after his announcement, a million thoughts screamed through my head right after.
- He’ll be 18 – it’s his choice, and I can’t stop him from living his life.
- I spent 18 years teaching him to be a man, it’s time to let him go.
- He’s changed his mind in the past, maybe this time, he’ll change it again.
- If he changes it again, will it be because he knows this is killing me?
- Did the waitress just ask me if I wanted more tea?
- Should I have paid more attention when other people told me one day, I’d have to face life without seeing my kid every day?
- Am I really ready to be a grown-up?
When I felt I could move without falling apart, I smiled, nodded my head (though at the waitress or my son, I’m still not sure), and blinked back the tears. I, as a parent, have fretted, worried, doted, coddled, protected, and taught in some way every day of the last 17 years. I cried when I dropped him off at Kindergarten, positive that he couldn’t live without me. I panicked the first time he fell and hit his head, worried that he could have given himself brain damage. I couldn’t sleep the first time he had a stay-over at a friend’s house. I held my breath the first time he learned to deal first-hand with a school bully. I held him tightly the first time someone he knew passed away. I watched the clock every minute of the first time he left with a friend who was driving without an adult in the car.
The thing is, every single one of those times, I also had to believe that my love, my parenting, and my son would be strong enough to face the next challenge. I won’t lie, I’m having a hard time applying that same faith here and now.
Yet, somehow, instead of crying over what could be a countdown, has instead become a celebration of sorts. Just the realization that my time as a helicopter parent is coming to an end is making me see him in a whole new light… and giving me the ability to say… I did one hell of a job raising my kid… I’m almost (ALMOST) excited to see what he does in this next chapter of his life.
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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.