My son is leaving school and I’m in pieces.
Nobody warned me about this. I’ve never read anything about a mother’s grief as her child becomes an adult. Is it grief though? I’m not even sure. I feel like I’ve been blindsided by tsunami of emotion and I’m being washed around and around and upside down and I can’t make sense of my reactions.
Some of my feelings are pleasant; pride and awe at the man my baby has grown into. But knocking me sideways is the sadness.
I’m crying a lot. More in the last few weeks than I have in the last few years. At the root of it, I think, is a potent sense of loss. I feel quite literally bereft.
Like every first-time parent, as soon as my baby was born, I became fixated with the firsts. First smile, first tooth, first roll, first word, first solids, first sleep-through-the-night, first steps. First birthday. The first night in a big bed. The first day in big boy undies.
Each milestone was eagerly anticipated and wildly celebrated. I was usually in a hurry for us to get there and I felt a momentous sense of accomplishment despite not having actually achieved anything myself.
As his mother, each first lifted my heart and was immediately communicated to friends and family in enormous detail. With untold kindness and patience, they pretended to care. He was our first child, the first grandchild on both sides and the first baby among our friends so the enthusiasm may have been genuine. Probably though, it was just politeness. Either way, everyone humoured us and we were jubilant.
But for every first there is a twin last, stalking it in the shadows. With every inch towards independence there’s a corresponding little loss. I didn’t realise this at the time. I could only see the forward momentum. But with every step towards physical and developmental growth, my son took a step away from the newborn with whom I was so madly in love. A step away from me.