My son is on the threshold of adulthood and I am feeling caught in that chasm between active motherhood and plain old motherhood, where you remain a mother but you don’t get to handle any of the chores. I liked the chores, I enjoyed active motherhood. I felt like being the mother I wanted to be was my purpose.
But here I am, purpose spent and with time on my hands.
My thoughts and feelings were a little chaotic this morning and I couldn’t contain them and put order to them so I decided to use that energy to clean the space under my house. I am not the kind of person that sits with their feelings. I take to my feelings with a cloth and detergent. Or food.
So I ventured downstairs to that place where the boxes from the last move (five years ago) still remain unopened. I started by sweeping the dead leaves that had accumulated everywhere, blown in by the wind and settled like a carpet. It felt good, making clean spaces felt therapeutic. I could see the mess, I could contain it one place and I could get rid of it.
Then I saw the boxes. They sat there so innocently, not at all messy like my head, still with the packing tape holding them securely. It was probably not a coincidence that I had arrived here at these boxes — my brain has been nagging me ever since a friend mentioned that she had had all her old videos and CD’s converted into digital format. This very much appeals to my tidy gene and I like to think I was just looking for the CDs I know are lying somewhere there. It was my intention to open a box, locate the discs (I can picture the black folder they are in) and take them to the magic man who would digitise them.
So I opened the first box I could reach. My timing was terrible; to say I am feeling sensitive about my son’s transition from child to adult is such an understatement I can’t find anything to compare it to. Let’s just say my therapist is on high alert.
I put my hand into the box and took out the outfit he wore to his first birthday party. And without even closing my eyes I could see him in it. I could smell his sweet little breath, I could almost hold on to him for one of those special baby cuddles, the one where they lean their heads into your neck and hold you tight. But in reality he was lying upstairs sleeping off a hangover.
I peered into another box and drew out his paintings from preschool, his work samples folder from Year 1 and his homework book from Year 2. Memories of his early school years flooded over me, almost causing me to lose my breath. But I soon realised it was my own tears causing the floods, not just the memories. I miss that little boy so much even though my young adult son was just upstairs.
It was when I got to the box with his tiny little eye mask from when he was under the jaundice lights, his little leads to his heart monitor and the tiny little dummy that he first used to teach him to suck that I stopped. The outfit that he came home in undid me. The yearning for my baby was just too much.
I realised that I was not fit for this job.
All through the years of his growing up I wondered if I was fit for the job of mothering a child. I worried I wouldn’t do it well enough, that I had too many of my own childhood issues to deal with. I worried I had no idea what I was doing, Now I look back and see that I managed that part just fine. It’s the letting go that I’m finding hard to manage.
I never did find the CD’s but reliving all these versions of my son reminds me how much I love him. I loved him as a baby, I loved him as a child and I am going to continue loving him as an adult even though loving an adult child requires space and I don’t know how good I am at that.