I left my Mom when I was 13 years old. There were so many bad things going on at that time, both in school, my personal life and home that I began a downward spiral into depression. Then one day, by an odd occurrence, I shocked everyone by deciding I wasn’t ever going home. I stayed with my Father, all the broken pieces of me, curled up on a broken bed in a broken home.
I never actually paid any attention to how my Mother felt through all of it. I suppose I felt so invisible to my family that it just never occurred to me that anyone would care. I was beyond lost and nothing mattered anymore. Years later I would hear my Mom’s voice crack during a conversation where she would say, “You left me.” And I would understand the fear of that separation.
I never had to face that fear until my son turned into a teenager filled with emotions that he was only beginning to understand. He had his first taste of real freedom once he moved into the area of his life with friends, girlfriends and ‘hanging out’. I watched him as I watch him all the time, at this distance with lingering fingers waiting to pull him back at any given moment. My husband, who knows me all too well, would tell me that I need to accept it; that he is growing up.
There would be these days when it seemed as if a war was waging in my home. One thing or another turns into a battlefield of words erupting mainly in the direction of the teenager who happened to do something horridly wrong or absolutely nothing in terms of things he SHOULD be doing. The door would slam shut, silence would ebb and flow and I would sit there at the end of the day waiting and wondering.
Will I lose him someday? Even though I was just being a parent?
That’s the hardest part. Your kid screws up, goes on some rampage of idiocy and you have to do some sort of punishment – take things away, grounding, chores, etc. On the other hand you have to deal with this nagging fear about whether or not your “pushing” will eventually lead them in the direction of a train station.
What choice do you have?
My son is turning 16 this year and in a few days he’s leaving for the summer again. I always have a hard time when he leaves, even though I’m very supportive of him going and having a great summer with his Father. I’m lucky that his Father is a good person and is fully supportive of his son and my husband and I’s choices, that our life is nothing like my past, but no matter how much luck I have in my pocket it can’t take away the fear of losing him.
My ability to be a strong parent, steadfast on discipline when he has done something wrong, is always crippled by this fear. Always wondering if one day I will be in my Moms seat looking at my child and saying, “You left me.” And the unspoken words that follow in that sadness, “I needed you. I was just trying to do the best I could. I know I wasn’t always there, but I was there.. you just never let me in.”
I know you can’t let the fear unravel you. Being a parent also means making the difficult decisions and sticking to them, standing your ground against tyrant teenagers and facing the closed doors, the silence, the hurtful words that scream, “You don’t care about me! You don’t love me! You never do anything for me! You never let me do anything!” It is holding on to the knowing that someday in the future they will look back and understand you were just doing the best that you could.
.. but sometimes it is really hard to hang on to that.