My son is nineteen and is going to college an hour from our home. To save money, he is commuting to school, but not from our house. He’s staying with husband’s parents and saving thousands. Woot for all of us!!
But my son is also nineteen and is feeling the need to see the world beyond the roads he has traveled all his life. I can see him, staring at computer screens, scrolling through apartment listings and rooms for rent. He needs to stretch his muscles and touch walls that have not always been familiar to him.
He needs to find his own place.
I fought him. I can’t lie. I fought him hard. I didn’t want him to move out of the in-laws’ house. Let’s face it. He is saving thousands of dollars by living under their roof for free. Plus, they generously pay for utilities and groceries and….everything else. He is safe there. He is nestled within walls and familiar roads that I know and recognize and can find my way around without the help of Siri or any other form of GPS.
I know where my son is.
And then he found the perfect apartment. And his hopes were skyrocketed and I sat an hour away, listening to his voice rising with these dreams of living with his best friend, maybe a mile from campus, and living in a new room that he rents but will feel like he owns.
I fought him. Or, rather, I wasn’t as supportive as I could have been. He doesn’t have credit. I recommended that he wait. Get a credit card. Put one tank of gas on it a week and pay it off immediately. Build his credit. Wait.
I reminded him that Covid might cause another quarantine/economic shutdown. He could lose his job…at Walgreens (probably the only business that isn’t hurting) and I can’t co-sign a lease with him and he needs to be able to take care of himself and that he should just wait until we have a vaccine. Have a steady income. Have a lot of money in his savings account. Have a steady job that is not threatened by a pandemic.
The apartment fell through. I breathed a sigh of relief. That was soon turned into another panicky inhale when he called with his next living prospective.
We talked about money and living arrangements and bills. I couldn’t understand my irrational need to keep him tucked away at the in-laws. When he first moved there a year ago, the entire point was that he would be there for one year and then look for a new place to live. Isn’t he doing what we expected all along?
Yesterday morning, instead of wrapping up grades, I watched the series finale of Schitt’s Creek. I sobbed as the characters came to understand and accept and reconcile themselves to the changes about to transform their lives. I sobbed because I felt an old pain fester through me. The fear of losing my son. The fear of leaving him behind. The anguish of watching him drive away from my house and feel like he was never going to live with me again and that I was going to lose my son.
Having taught seniors for most of my career, I couldn’t understand the sobbing mothers, the women grieving their children growing up and leaving the nest to go and pursue their dreams. As my son approached graduation, I was still fine. He was going to live at home. Commute for a year or two. Get his own place. And then, I upset the nest. I found a new house. I shredded the family’s stability and we moved.
And he moved on. Or in. With the in-laws. Which was great. Because, in some way, I felt like he was still living at home. Just an offshoot, a branch of home.
But now, he wants to fling himself out of the trees that we wandered through together. I could invoke so many cliches to stretch out this clumsy metaphor. Or, I can just finally do what I finally did yesterday. I sobbed because I was finally accepting that my son was moving to a place which will never be an extension of my home.
But will be his.
He needs to find his own place and set down his own feet on his own floor and be his own man.
And I will need to plug in his new address into my phone and follow Siri’s mechanically warm voice to where my son will live. Tucked in the back of my car will be bags of groceries and cleaning supplies, maybe some brand new towels, and bits and pieces of my hopes and dreams for him.
He is moving on.
And I couldn’t be prouder.