I didn’t want to write about it. Writing makes me think, and this is something that is painful to think about. Okay, so maybe that seems melodramatic, but it’s how I feel. The little boy that I raised is no longer a little boy, and he’s no longer here. What’s worse is that little boy will never return. Ouch.
I know he’s a young man now and he’s where he is supposed to be.
I know he has a good head on his shoulders and I trust him to make good decisions, at least most of the time.
I know that this separation is not only normal, but desirable. He’s supposed to move on. I get it. But it still stings.
The other day I was packing my lunch for work and it dawned on me that I couldn’t recall the last time I packed him a lunch. He’s eighteen, a freshman in college, and quite self-sufficient. When did that happen? When was the last time I made him a sandwich, placed it in a ziplock bag in a lunch box, added raisins, carrots, and a granola bar, then a juice box and ice pack to combat the Arizona heat? Did he enjoy those lunches? Did he prefer strawberries or apple slices? Wheat thins or triscuits? Why can’t I remember?
Why can’t I remember the last time I read him a bedtime story or tucked him in? Why can’t I remember the last time I brushed his teeth or gave him a bath? I did all of those things hundreds and hundreds of times, but I don’t know when I stopped doing them. Why didn’t I pay closer attention? Now he’s gone, and it’s never going to be quite the same.
If getting divorced and ending up in a joint custody situation has had any upside, it’s this: at least I know how to survive without him. Those first few years were hell. Every time he was away from home was absolutely heart wrenching to me. When you have children and a marriage ends, joint custody is the norm, unless there’s a problem with one of the parents. In our case I had my son most of the time, but his father saw him weekly and kept him every other weekend. It was important that their relationship remained as intact as possible, given the circumstances.
My head understood this and supported it completely, but my heart was wounded deeply. I felt cheated out of my right to have my child by my side. How could I mother him if he wasn’t there? I hated it, but learned to live with it. That adjustment has been a life saver now. I learned to trust that he was okay when he was away, and that if he needed me he had the means and opportunity to reach out to me. That hasn’t changed. I’m here if he needs me, but I’m confident that he’s okay.
Still, there are times I want that little kid back. The one I sang to at night, the one who made mini-golf courses in his bedroom and left his socks all over the house. I miss that kid, and I always will, but the young man he’s become is pretty great too, so I choose to focus on the here and now, and look toward the future.