...looks to be eluding me once again!
When I picked up my son from college back in May I had the rough makings of a plan. A cartwheel to let him know how excited I was, some favorite foods, general enthusiasm, but also a conscious effort to reign myself in. I did not want to frighten him away with my smothering, just a calm cool and collected "glad you're here, please enjoy yourself". (Oh my gosh, please enjoy yourself or you won't want to come back and then what will I do? I miss you already. Good grief, dial it back woman!)
The space he occupied in our home was huge upon re-entry, and not just because of the piles of stuff he brought with him, or the freshman fifteen extra pounds that found their spot with him on the couch. He had tales to tell about his classes, friends, and then his new summer internship. My boy had grown. I finally started to feel less longing for the days that had gone by, instead more proud and excited for his next adventures. I started to pull back, finding comfort in watching him manage more things on his own.
I can run through the series of events as they unfolded the night my son called to tell me he had "messed up his leg". It started with the thought that he was describing what would amount to nothing more than a bruise over the course of the next few days, quickly morphing into something that needed my undivided attention as I scrambled to change out of pajamas and get to the car, while making a series of flailing hand gestures to rally my husband and reassure my daughter. He wanted me to stay on the phone with him because he believed it was helping to keep him calm. So the often anxious, sometimes neurotic, worrisome woman was to be the rock for this incident? Perfect.
As we pulled into the parking lot of the trampoline park, I saw the flashing lights on the ambulance, so much brighter and alarming knowing my son was inside. Deciding where to park felt beyond any decision making capability I had left, but somehow managed to get the car in park and my feet in motion. I climbed into the front seat of the ambulance, almost comforted by the realization that the situation was truly beyond my control, and there were actual qualified people helping.
"Mom, they want to give me morphine. What do you think about that?"
I silently pondered how awful I thought that sounded, then a nod from the ambulance driver as he said "Oh, he's going to need morphine" brought me back.
The ER, the hospital room where we tried to get some sleep that first night, the waiting for a surgery time, the tears as the team wheeled him out of pre-op, waiting for word from the OR, waiting for him in his room...I still was fighting a mental battle with myself to accept that he was an eighteen year old "adult", who luckily had been admitted to the pediatric floor, trying to follow his lead as to how close to get, trying to stay out of the way. Then there was this...
My mom brain was brought to its knees. The years vanished as I watched him sleep, my baby. Those stuffed airplane toys still with their magical comforting powers. There were times during that second night when he woke, pointed to me, smiled as I pointed back, and drifted back off to sleep. We just kept reassuring each other that we were there.
Remember how this story started? The part about how I planned to back off a bit? I am fairly certain that plan did not involve holding the urinal jug.
When we got home, I felt as ill-prepared to care for my son as I had when he was a newborn. How was I deemed qualified? Setting an alarm for middle of the night painkillers, the way I had once set an alarm for feedings when they were supposed to be every two hours around the clock due to jaundice. Feeling equally as helpless in the middle of the night, when he was clearly uncomfortable and upset. I found myself suggesting he turn the television on for a distraction, the same way I used to turn music on for him to make myself, and him, feel like I had done something to help. Days of grabbing his clothes, anticipating his needs, drinks, food, helping him bathe...smothering him. Yep.
Did I spoil him? Probably. Do I regret it? Not at all. I know how fleeting the years have been, so I was well aware that the weeks of his recovery would also go by in the blink of an eye. I could not hold him at arm's length just because I knew how hard it would be to let go again. No, instead I had to make the silver lining the fact that we got share these precious moments, slowing down to just sit around and all enjoy each other's company. I had to remind myself to not take it personally when his recovery reached the point where my assistance was less needed, as that was the goal.
So here we are, thirty-six hours before the loaded car pulls out of the driveway to head back to college. Bags are packed with precision by which room they need to land in, lists have been made and only a few items remain without scribbles. However, my plans and thoughts that there was a graceful way to mentally prepare for this were flushed awhile ago. My last five peanut m&m's were eaten yesterday.
So with regard to there being an art to letting go, if by "art" you mean scribbled crayon with those unintended wax flakes on crumpled paper with jagged scissor cuts, then yes, I am nailing it!