Parenting is like a series of bittersweet moments. And bittersweet is probably the type of moment I like least. It’s never in equal measure, the bitter almost always outweighs the sweet. And the joy or pride of watching your children grow up is often overshadowed by the reality of them growing up, only after the time has passed: hence Bittersweet Parenting.
We get caught up. Caught up in the doing of things, caught up in the managing of things. Caught up in the everyday things but not so much caught up in the moment of things. Thinking back, it’s a bit of a blur. Milestones came and went, and continue to come and go, years merge into each other, celebrating successes and soothing disappointed hearts.
The bittersweet moment of letting go
My eldest son left recently to study in a different city. I never anticipated how much I’d miss him. I thought I’d be glad to get rid of one (kidding of course). It’s a kind of void every time I look into his room and he isn’t there, lying on his bed. It took me a few days to get used to not seeing him come out of school with his brother, walking towards me in his uniform.
Not having him sit with me while I work, telling me all the stories of his day, showing me cars he found on Marketplace that we were never going to buy for him. I’ve still cooked the same amount of food and now have leftovers, I guess that’s a plus. But then I worry about whether he’s eaten or not.
I worry about whether he woke up on time for his classes. Whether he locked his door and more importantly, if he took the key with him. Is he safe and comfortable, did he do his laundry and wash his dishes. It’s worrying about everything I worry about with each of my children but now, from a distance. It’s hoping that he’s ok and not just saying that he is, so I won’t worry.
In fact, it’s more than just a wistful feeling or concern over his wellbeing. It’s the realisation that he’s a grown up now. That I’ll never get the chance to do the things I used to, with him and for him. It’s knowing that I’ll never get back those years with him and wondering whether I did enough.
It’s feeling regretful that I should have done more, that maybe I wasn’t always present, and I should have been. It’s feeling like it went too fast and I wasn’t ready yet. It’s wondering whether I made any impact on him as a mother. Whether he’s reminded of me and home when he experiences something, a familiar smell or sound or sight.
Scared and sad, but grateful and hopeful too
It’s gotten easier as time has passed but I know that I’ll always love, care and worry about him and my other children, wherever they may go. It’s some consolation that at least I know he has a roof over his head, he has a warm bed and access to food, water and anything he may need.
In today’s times and with the world in the state that it is in, I can’t imagine being in the position of a mum who has lost her child/ren, her family, her home and everything she ever held dear to her. Knowing he has a bright future ahead of him with opportunities and wonderful experiences that some children may never have.
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