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Monday, April 19, 2010

I think I'm going through a form of separation anxiety with my 18-year-old son.   It's hard for both of us.  He's not having any trouble becoming an adult ... what's hard for him is dealing with me.

I don't remember the first time I had separation anxiety as a baby.  I'm sure I had it, since most babies do.  I remember my own children sobbing as I left them in the nursery at church, or with a babysitter.  Their little hearts were breaking as I walked away.  Truthfully, mine was too.  In their minds, I wasn't coming back.  Finally, they learned to trust that I would return.

Oh, how the situation has changed. 

My son is becoming an adult.  He wants to make his own decisions.  He doesn't want me to ask him if he's done his homework, or if he's getting enough sleep, or say things like, "Maybe you should shave" or "Please eat more vegetables and fruit." 

He's in college now and living at home.  Which is wonderful ... most of the time.  He's leading a worship team at church, reads the Bible with his girlfriend, and is respectful and kind.  But he wants to grow up.  And this momma's heart is breaking. 

I know all the right things to think and say.  Really, I do.  I know this is healthy.  I'm so proud that he wants to work to support himself.  I'm delighted he's in college. 

I'm just being real here.  It hurts that he doesn't need me in the same way he used to. 

So I'm going through my own form of separation anxiety.  I'm learning to withhold advice on the little things, and save it for what really matters.  I'm learning to affirm his choices, without following it up with advice on how to something better.  I'm learning to set aside my desire to pout when he would rather be with his girlfriend.  I'm learning to not try to make him feel guilty for wanting to be independent.  I'm learning to be fully present when I do have a moment with him and not spoil it by overreacting based on emotion. 

In other words, I'm growing up. 

Healthy things grow, growing things change. 

This applies to him ... and me. 

Thanks for listening.



KarenM said...

OH, how I can relate. My almost 17 year old son used to just idolize me and every possible moment he could spend with me from the time he was a newborn until around age 12 - yes, he had friends, too! The past few years have been a shock to my emotions as he has become more and more distant, even rolling his eyes and upset to find me at home (which I almost always am and have been) when HE gets home from school. "WHY are YOU here?!" He snaps at me. Well, we've toned that down the past few months to just a glaring eye roll, but you get the picture. Yep, I can't do much for him anymore, and he doesn't want me to remind him of anything he needs to be doing. There's no girlfriend yet, but that should be an interesting dynamic. I haven't quite mastered the not-ever pouting because he doesn't want to spend time with me. But when he does want to be with me, and we actually connect, I savor every single second. I thank God for the ability to have memories, snapshots in my mind of our close times, of snuggling together, laughing, him letting me help him with something, of times he eagerly looked for me to be home the MINUTE he walked in the door, and the elated look on his face to be able to run and hug me as soon as he found me. When he was only 11 months old - he was crying and waiting for me to return from a very quick errand because he hated bottles and had just awakened from a nap. His dad handed him to me and I began to nurse him. He nursed for less than a minute, looked up at me with DEEP gratitude in his sweet little eyes, smiled and said, "gank-oo" - his word for thank you. (Yes, he was an early, amazing talker.) Talk about melting my heart!! WHAT a difference nowadays, to put it mildly. I agree, it's separation anxiety in reverse. And even though he's not even a senior in high school, I wonder if he'll ever really come back to me so we can connect more than we do now. But I am reassured that he will by mothers of older sons. So, yes, separation anxiety toddlers, I can now REALLY relate to you. My prayers and my heart are with you in this journey we are on, Glynnis...

Anonymous said...

OH how I know how your feeling. My son is now 25, married and has a daughter. It was so hard cause we did things together. I love my daughter - in - law but it is different now. It just seems like he doesn't need mom anymore. But one thing I have learned is when I keep my mouth shut he always comes back to me and talks about things. But when I start asking questions the wall goes back up. He will always be your baby boy but letting go was the hardest thing to do. Hang in there it will get better.

Anniem said...

On one hand I am crying because I identify with you, and on the other hand I am crying for you. I thought, of course, that my son was the only son who didn't want to spend his waking hours texting, or answering my phone calls. I lost one son 5 years ago, I am thankful he is with The Father, and I have to say I am thankful that I don't have both of them ignoring me at once...It really is hard...my son is 29, married, wanting a baby, I don't see him "coming back to me" any time soon....

Anonymous said...

I just want to chime in with I hear you, and I so get this. I was just complaining (whining) to my sister that my 18 year old daughter doesn't want me to be her mommy anymore. I don't know how to not be a mommy!!! --but I'm learning quickly! It is hard!

Tea With Tiffany said...

I can relate to this in a light sense. Not fully, but in part. My son will be a senior in the fall and I'm guessing he will stay home for his first year/s of college. Sounds like you have a great son who is now a man.

Your mommy growth is apparent. Your willingness to be real here is a gift to others who read this. Thanks.

But as you and I both know our boys will always be our children. No matter how old they are. :)

As mothers, our love never ends. That one thing that changes, but still remains.

Have a great week!

Stephanie Shott said...

I have loved every minute of being a mom, but I have to tell you, no one ever told me how hard it was to be a parent of an adult child.

How can we just put the brakes on a life we have lived for 18 years and become less than who we are? We never stop being mom, but since my sons are 29 and 22, I've learned that our roles as "mom" take on a whole new meaning. And I have to admit, it isn't easy.

No longer do they cling to our advice. No longer can we tell them to go to their room or put them on restriction. Somehow everything changes and we are left to learn how to take our roles as "mom" to a new level.

As you said, it's part of growing, but let's face it - there's no growing pain that can compare to that of a mother in the middle of watching her children become adults.

There's comfort in knowing we're not the only ones on this peculiar path and even more comforting to know that the Lord is with us to speak peace to our anxious hearts and bring us joy as we watch these children become the adults we prayed they would be. Even if that means they take a few detours.

It's also comforting to know that no matter who comes into their lives - no one will love them or pray for them like their mom.

Praying on!
Stephanie Shott
Phil 3:7-14

Cheri Bunch said...

Hi Glynnis,
My youngest of five is 18 and graduating from high school in a few weeks. He is singing up for navy seals ... I have cried buckets lately. I can relate to the difficulties you are facing.