Don’t get me wrong. Let me be perfectly clear. I love my two sons so deeply words cannot describe. The love you have for a child is unlike any love. Period.
So, that said, how do I describe what life is like in this next phase, one where my children have gone off to college and are living far away like grown ups. And then they come home. Home to a house where they used to live but now only live sometimes. How do I describe my emotions without feeling completely guilty for what I am about to say.
I knew it was going to be an adjustment for all of us. I spent months adjusting to life in a quiet house. My boys were both gone and I was going to have to find a new normal. The first few weeks were strange and my newfound freedom caused some unease though I readjusted quickly. We started embracing the freedom of spontaneously going out for dinner on a weeknight and changing up old routines. My husband and I could go to bed whenever we wanted without waiting up to make sure the boys were home and safe. All of a sudden, the house was clean and neat, there were fewer trips to the grocery store, we could actually have a simple and healthy dinner, something we actually wanted to eat. My husband and I were able to focus on our relationship as a couple. After all these years there were no distractions pulling each of us in different directions. We were both calm, for a change.
Truth be told, I felt a bit guilty for feeling so good about this new, quiet life.
I also understood that as much as we were going through a transformation, so was my youngest son who had begun his first year of college. He also had a newfound freedom. In his new life at school, he could come and go as he pleased, sleep all day, party, eat or drink whatever unhealthy food he wanted and no one said a word. I remember those days, even though they were a while ago. We went through the same thing with my oldest son when he began college. “I am an adult and don’t need you anymore to tell me what I can and cannot do.”
As the days of autumn pass and Thanksgiving/Christmas recess nears, my excitement mounts as the days approach. I can’t wait to see my boys, hug and kiss them and have them under my roof, knowing they are safe and sound. We exchange texts and phone calls and they also look forward to the comfort of home and the chance to re-group. We are all excited.
Sounds pretty simple. But not really. It is a bit like putting a square peg now in a round hole. Things have changed.
The semester ends and the boys come home. And our worlds collide. As much as we are all excited, there are times that fall flat. We, the parents are annoying. Not because of anything in particular we do or say but because we represent what was and seem to be getting in the way of the new. To our dismay, we find our interactions are now complicated, uncomfortable and stressful despite the heart warming scenes we had fantasized about before they arrived. And so there are retreats to the bedroom to text friends, binge watch shows and closed doors. My youngest son, my buddy who would venture out with me to see a movie, grab a meal, is no longer available. He is pushing me away.
In what seems like an instant, the house is a mess. The laundry mounts, request for food and more food from the market mount. There are water bottles, soda cans, beer cans, banana peels, trash everywhere. Our TV is blaring, rooms are taken over, late nights abound and their friends are parading in and out. The house has completely transformed and feels like an inn and I am the inn keeper. Those wonderful exchanges we have on the phone or texts while the boys are away are non-existent in person. We are walking on egg shells to avoid conflict.
There are moments where we laugh and enjoy each others company so we take what we can get. But times have changed. We are in the tween stage of youth and adulthood. The boys are old enough to be considered adults but they are not yet on their own in the true sense of the word, financially. It is a difficult and uncomfortable place to be in for all of us. We are all feeling both the push and pull.
The recess ends and we are all ready to say goodbye and get back to our new lives. The emotions are mixed for sure. Guilt for wanting to say goodbye and sadness for having to say goodbye.
They leave and I feel so conflicted and sad. And then my phone lights up. It is a warm text from my son as soon as he returns to school. We banter back and forth. I smile and I laugh and I am no longer sad. This is our new normal. The space and distance are good for our relationship. Right now we have a better relationship apart. We need the distance right now as we adjust to this new chapter.
And while I wait, there are always my dogs.