On Being There and Not Being There

One of the hardest things about moving to Knoxville from Chicagoland last year was leaving our sons behind.

If you’re new here, don’t worry: we weren’t cruelly abandoning little baby boys. They are now 23 and just shy of 26, and they stayed in the Midwest because they have their own lives (and jobs) going on. Still, it was difficult to think about living so far away from them for the first time ever. In a strange way it felt like we were leaving them all alone.

Everyone adjusted to the distance nicely and although we’re not seeing the boys nearly as much as we did, we’re in touch often. We’re fortunate in that they both still seem to enjoy talking to us, and they do seek our counsel on many things. I don’t think they tell us everything (nor do I want to know everything, to be honest!), but they are usually very open, and I treasure that.

Parenting doesn’t end once the kids grow up and leave the house. While we do everything we can to teach them enough as we build the strong foundation that will carry them forward into their own adult lives, there is still so much they don’t know when they take flight. It’s something I think about all the time; so many lessons can’t be taught in advance. Mistakes must be made, panic must ensue, clean-up must occur. Young adulthood is trial by fire in so many ways, and if parents are lucky (like Jim and I are), the “kids” will ask for help when they need it.

I try to strike a delicate balance in the relationships I have with each of my sons. I want to let them know I’m extremely interested in their lives without coming across as too nosy. I want them to know I miss them without making them feel like I’m pressuring them for calls or visits. I want to give helpful advice from an experienced perspective when asked but don’t want to seem like my way is the only way. I want to make things easier for them but also recognize they benefit more in the long run from “doing the hard work” and accomplishing things on their own. I want to be supportive without making them feel like they can’t handle something without me. It’s quite the dance and I think they appreciate my thoughtful restraint. Mostly thoughtful restraint, I should say. I mean, I slip up now and then: I’m human!

In the past couple of months, both of my sons have had some pretty major personal challenges. It’s hard enough being away from them on the average day, but during times of struggle it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my body because I can’t fix everything like I could when they were little.

Something wonderful has happened though, that I didn’t see coming. Each has been there for the other one. They have encouraged, consoled, and taken care of each other. I have learned about acts of love and kindness between my two sons that have filled my heart with joy when I have felt completely useless. This is a big deal and I am an emotional mess over it. While we always hoped that they would grow up and have a good relationship, we stayed out of it since they moved out of our house so they could truly forge their own way with each other. The brotherly support system they built together reinforces my hope that no matter what obstacles they both face as they go through life, they have support beyond Jim and me. It’s a comfort. It makes me feel like we did a pretty good job raising them. We didn’t leave them alone at all, as it turns out, and that’s the icing on the cake for me.

6 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.