I see him standing there, holding his water bottle. His broad shoulders and curly hair aren’t absent of some of his features he had as a baby. I still see the one-year-old, the three-year-old, the ten-year-old.
Then he comes into my room (reluctantly) and leans in to receive a hug he doesn’t return. He smells just like he did the day he was born. His eyes are the same shade of blue, and he still tugs at his hair when he’s waiting for something like he did as a toddler.
He’s my alarm clock these days; the reason I get up and start my day instead of sleeping in. I need to see that child before he leaves me for eight or nine hours a day. How is he so tall and when did he start wearing a size 12 shoe?
I hear the garage door open and his car start. And every morning when my feet hit the floor and I stumble to the bathroom, I think, Where did it all go? How the fuck am I here with a child who will be leaving me in a year? Have I done enough? Was I enough? What will I do when he is gone?
You think you have time. You think the day will never come when your children turn into adults who leave you. But they go. And pieces of you go with them. At least that’s what I can already feel happening.
You are able to rationalize things when there’s four or five years left of them living under your roof. I can talk to them about that later. I’ll take them to open a bank account next year. I don’t have to worry about driving for another six months. It’s okay if they don’t want to go to the beach with me. We can hang out next time.
Then, you hit the one-year mark. The “I Have 365 Days To Soak It All Up And Cover Everything” wall. And suddenly, you panic.
You have one more Christmas living at home. This is the last summer under my roof. This is your last birthday you’ll spend sleeping in your childhood bed.
Every time my oldest does something, every time I catch his shoulders filling up the doorway, every time I hear him pull in the driveway, I’m so aware his time living with me is in countdown mode.
I’m not okay, so don’t ask me if I’m okay.
I’m not okay, so don’t tell me it will be okay.
I’m not okay, and I’m not going to hide it from him that I’m not okay.
Yes, we butt heads and he drives me crazy in that way teenage boys do. It’s frustrating, but underneath most of it I am saying, “I adore you. Do better. Be better. I want so much for you, you cannot fuck it up. I will not let you fuck it up because you have no idea the kind of love I have for you.”
The last year — this is it, you know. This is the last year he’ll have concentrated time with his Mama. Once you leave the nest, even if you return, it’s not the same.
You’ve had a taste of being on your own and no amount of love and protection can change you back into the child you once were.
It’s good and oh, he’s excited.
As his mother, I’m excited for him, but not for me.
As his mother, I’m dreading this, and trying to hold it together knowing I have only months left of seeing his penmanship on the grocery list.
As his mother, I am not okay.
As his mother, I am not ready.
I’ve decided I’m not going to use my energy to try and hold it together. I did that the first time I left him with a sitter. I did that when I gave him a sister and I felt bad for spreading myself thinner and taking up some of his time. I did that on the first day of school.
I’ve had enough of pretending. One of the greatest loves of my life is closing in on his last year with me, and really, I’m not sure how to be. I just know I am not okay.