Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The 18-year-long pajama party is over...

Nature knows best. Nature helped me through the big goodbye.

The summer was excruciatingly hot. Pablo, Nina and I packed up and moved to our new house. They couldn't believe how stressful and awful moving was. "Welcome to my world," I said to them.

Recent high school graduate Pablo was impossible, as only a Mother can describe. He stayed out until the wee hours and then came home and slept till mid afternoon. He didn’t get a job because in Mexico you need to be 18 to get a job, and when you do get a summer job…you might earn about 400 U.S. dollars after eight weeks of serious toiling… He didn’t see the point. I kept telling him about developing a work ethic until I got tired of hearing my own voice.

You see, he knew best. He knew better. He wouldn’t listen. He didn’t care. He drove me crazy.

I was so sick of him by the end of the summer that I dropped him off at college with the attitude, “Here, take him.”

That's nature for you. Nature engineered it perfectly. 18 years is our allotted human time. Birds get pushed out of the nest much younger, like a few weeks. Mama birds too get tired of the fuss and push the birds out of the nest.

The night before I drove him to college, we stayed in a hotel. At 3 a.m., I realized he wasn’t in the room. I got dressed and went down to the deserted lobby. There he was, chatting on Internet. I burst into tears and started yelling at him. “Do you realize what time it is? We have to get up at 6 a.m.! You have a long day tomorrow! Go to bed!” I went back upstairs humiliated at the absurdity of this. Me, yelling at my 18-year-old son, who I was going to take leave of tomorrow. Reminded me of couples who have a big fight before one of them leaves on a business trip.

Leaving him at college was fine. I knew he was in a luminous place, surrounded by great natural beauty and inspiring professors.

He was not at all sad to see me go, or at least, he didn’t show it. He was too overwhelmed with the beauty and challenge of his new life. And the scent of freedom.

Of course I cried when I left him. He couldn’t understand my sadness.

I was crying for me. My years of Mothering were officially over. My job, as 24/7 “Mother” was phased out, terminated. I was shown the door and handed my pink slip. I had my chance with him, a full 18 years…and now it was over. I cried for this.

And I mourned for this: When your kids are young, you are the star of their lives. And now, I have a supporting role, a bit part. The college administrators told us parents that our children would finally begin to see us now as people, and not just as their Mothers. That's a good thing.

That day I delivered him to college, I saw him become an adult right before my eyes. He trotted around a campus he had never seen before, getting his photo, picking up an ID, going to the cashier, the registrar, getting keys, meeting a roommate, navigating everything new. He took charge of his clothes and put everything away. He made plans to open a bank account and had a slew of meetings to get to. Everything he didn’t do at home all summer, he just slid into perfectly.

This is what you wish for when you are a Mother -- that you raise your child to be able to thrive in a new world.

Back home, I am discovering new joys in my life as the Mother of an adult. I feel lighter now. There is no more, “Go to bed, it’s late.” Or, “pick up your room.” “You asked me for $$ yesterday.” No more hearing the boring, antagonized drone of my own voice.

I no longer have to cook huge meals, buy gallons of juice, watch cartons of cookies disappear before my eyes. I can diet. I can sip tea. I have my life back.

It was a glorious 18 year long pajama party.

And now, that party’s over. A new relationship between Pablo and me begins.

Nature knows best.

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