Last night I dreamt my three-year-old son was being given bottles of beer as he sat in his highchair and at one point was tossed the car keys so he could drive himself to nursery. I told my husband about my dream over breakfast this morning and he snorted coffee and laughed, 'we don't need a dream interpreter for that one!'
Here's the thing. My son is actually a six-foot-three, beer-drinking adult who is leaving home this week to go to university. I know technically he is this capable, grown up, beard-wearing man, but when I look at him, I see his three-year-old self and the thought of abandoning him to a halls of residence, where posters promise 'foam parties,' 'beer pong and pizza' and 'Fresher's get in for free +3 vodka shots!' leaves me terrified.
Another mum in a similar situation confessed that she had been dreading this day all summer. I smiled and admitted that I have been dreading this day for eighteen years, six months, two weeks and three days. Now before you write me off as a clingy, needy mother with control issues, give me a chance to explain.
I pride myself on having pushed this boy to be the best he can, telling him to 'go seek adventure!' and 'get out into the world to find your place in it!' What I didn't fully appreciate was that the saying of these phrases is so much easier in theory than in practice. It's not that I don't think he's capable, far from it. It's far more about the fact that... how do I phrase this? I shall miss him.
And that's the nub of it I guess. I'm being selfish. I like being in his company. Not that he has been around much - it seems the post-school, pre-university summer is perfectly orchestrated to ease parents into their children's upcoming absence.
Having analyzed my grief-like symptoms, I can see that having a child of school age has been familiar to me for nearly two decades. That familiarity stops now. The school routine has been tightly entwined in my life; my day punctuated by trips to school and back again, twice a day. And with the ceasing of that, I feel as if I have lost some of my purpose. And it's nothing to do with me idling at home, bored, with no one to bake for! Far from it, I have always been a working mum, in the early days, as a single mum, holding down two jobs and going to clean offices at night for extra cash. It's about having to let my boy go and standing back as I watch him grow into a man.
I didn't expect to feel like this. I thought I would be celebrating his wonderful achievement - but I don't feel like celebrating. I feel like crying and so I have. A lot. I've cried at the sight of his very own toaster nestling in its box. I've cried at the sight of a boy of similar age carrying a bag of shopping, I've cried when he pointed out he wouldn't be home until Christmas. I cried when I recalled, from my own experience, that once I left for university, I never truly went home again, not mentally, not permanently.
I have decided to pack his cases with a grin plastered and do as I have been doing, retire to the loo for a cry. I will drive him to his new abode, help make the bed in his new room and I shall buy him one last lunch. I shall then cry all the way back up the motorway, but then I need to get a grip, reminding myself that this is what I have always wanted, for my son to fly, to see the world and be the best citizen of it that he can be!
I will however, very much look forward to welcoming him home at Christmas and will of course write, weekly, with instructions on how to cook chilli, operate a washing machine and notes on why drinking three vodka shots is a bad idea. And as I type, I realise to my horror that I am indeed a clingy, needy mother with control issues.
...but I'm working on it.