When I was not yet twenty, I brought my first-born son home. I sat the whole night watching him sleep, get up, stretch, yawn, poop and pee, simply fascinated. I was in love, and how! No one, nothing mattered. It was just me and the little man! I decided that everything could wait, life could wait, I could wait until he turned into an adult and then parenting would be over.
Oh, how wrong that was!
Now first-born is almost 30, the second one is right now on his very first tour in his very first job. The train is about 7 hours late and I am sitting at work agonizing about his safety, praying that his first tour is wildly successful and that he nails the work he has gone for. I also pray that he gets a good hotel room and can sleep well at night.
The life of a mother with grown up kids.
I can say, without any doubt, that being a mother to grown up kids is way harder than it was when they were small. When the boys were growing up, I coped with school admissions, class tests, bullies, skinned knees, illnesses and broken bones. I tortured myself when they were rejected by their crushes, belittled by peer groups they wanted to desperately be a part of. But – as long as they knew they were loved, as long as they got a lot of validation from me, good food, and their latest play station games, things seemed to be fine. They liked being with me and felt secured at home.
All of that changes when they are grown. Security from parental home is not enough. They have to go out, forge their own lives, their careers. They have to experiment, and often make choices that are not right. And when bad things happen, they need you like crazy. But they will not reach out for you. And on your part, you find out that the kind of help you’ve been giving them for 20 years or so, is not enough or right for them.
My elder son went through a series of setbacks, the kind that could break him. It almost broke him and hell, it almost broke me up. Everything went wrong. I could see him fall apart and then slowly gather the pieces and re-invent himself. It was agony watching my handsome confident son fall apart the way it happened. I wanted to be by his side, help him, but I did not know how. I wanted to go out, fight the system, fight his battles for him, and at the same time, I just wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in the ground just to avoid the unbearable pain his agony was causing me.
The net was no help. There are pages and reams of research on how to deal with teething pains. None to deal with older children. And then there was this fear, that he would take it wrong, get angry because I talked about it…
Just when I thought I could take no more, he surprised me. He emerged, stronger, more sorted out, confident and happy. He did not need me. He did not need anything apart from some support that I could provide. He did not need me to fight his war.
Support … just that? I could do that.
And then a month back my younger son got his first job. My maternal heart began hoping… dancing, once again.
And then my brain kicked in and warned me, “Don’t hope for anything. Just pray that this one also grows up and needs nothing, just love and support.”
Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at www.phoenixritu.com