Things here at the reading room have been a bit erratic lately and I realise this probably has to do with more adjustments than the change in template and my issue with commenting on other sites (although that is still not fixed and causing me much hassle). We’ve had a very unusual spring, and one that has ushered in a lot of changes in our household. Nothing bad, I hasten to reassure you all, just different. For my son has his first girlfriend, and after all these years, fortunate ones for me and Mister Litlove, in which he has been mostly at home and content to meet up with his friends online, he is suddenly out late after school and often elsewhere on weekends.
I can’t tell you how odd it feels. We have grown so accustomed to seeing him in his chair at the computer, and now it swings around emptily in silence (when it is not colonised by the cat who stretches out over as much of it as possible, as if he knows this is the master chair from which the universe is commanded). Mister Litlove and I arrive home in the evenings to a dark house, we eat our dinner quietly, just the two of us. We always knew this would happen, and we could not be happier for our son. We like his girlfriend very much. But oh my goodness, it does feel strange.
I had been warned, and even told, by other mothers of sons, that no girl would be good enough for my boy. That I would feel jealous of the love that would be diverted from me to her. And no, I don’t feel like that at all, but I have felt emotional and churned up sometimes in ways I never expected. It’s been far more to do with the fact that I haven’t known where he is, or what he is doing, and whether or not I need to be responsible for him. Like mothers across time before me, I have learned what it is to lie in bed awake, unable to sleep until he has come upstairs himself. And though I know this is perfectly right and natural – and can remember being 17 and how fantastic it was when grown-up life began to start and things began to happen (and at that age any old thing will do, it’s all thrilling) – I haven’t liked it. I have felt at times bewildered and bereft. For the first time since I gave birth, I’ve felt broody, although do not worry, that’s NOT a choice I would make! But it is a symptom of the realisation that I am no longer essential to my son’s life, which is something all mothers must face up to, sooner or later.
As ever, I’ve been curious about what I’ve felt, and it seems to me that mothers are in love with their children, and this process of separation is about pushing us back to the place where we just love them. We have to be in love with our children – as far as I can see, motherhood is one long series of heroic self-sacrifices, and we couldn’t perform them if we weren’t actively in love, with a passion that transcends the usual limitations of self interest. I’ve found that love for my son to be one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had in my life. For all the anxiety and exhaustion of parenthood, it has expanded and improved me in ways I could never have imagined; my very best self has been bound up with it. But I can also see now how being in love with someone can be constraining and maybe even suffocating at times. Because he is too important to me, I don’t trust my son to look after himself. I think worse of the world and its pitfalls because he may fall into them. If I acted purely out of my own desires, I could so easily make myself a problem in his life that he would have to deal with; someone who fretted and fussed over him, who needed tiresome reassurances, who had to be satisfied and borne continually in mind. And I don’t want to weigh so heavily on him. I want him to spring forward freely into his new life, without me hanging onto his ankles as he used to hang onto mine, all those years ago back when he was a small child and in love with me.
I’ve realised this past week or so that I am growing more accustomed to our new routines. I still don’t quite know what to do with the hours between five and seven and I still can’t quite get to sleep until he has come up to bed. But I am not on tenterhooks all the time, wondering when he will be in. I still fret if he’s much later back than I’m expecting, though (and probably always will!). Mister Litlove has been a great support in all this, and my son has been so good too, always ready to negotiate with us and figure out how to keep us sufficiently informed. This must be an incredibly hard transition for mothers who have really rebellious teenagers, or less than supportive husbands. And goodness only knows what slip-ups, miscommunications, accidents or near-disasters will happen in the future. But I have to give him away to that chaotic outside world; it’s where he belongs.
I confess I do feel a bit tired at the moment, though not in an ill way, I’m perfectly okay. Just with the release of tension that comes after periods of big adjustments. I lack focus at present, and concentration. But I’m sure my blogging routine will settle down again and that I WILL find a way to comment on your sites. I’m going to try to figure out now how to tweet other people’s posts, which is one way to indicate I am still here reading!