My son and I have always had a close bond, though we argue and fall out too – as is natural. I was late to the Motherhood Bus, birthing him two months shy of my fortieth birthday – and I will freely admit that, for many years, I was an anxious and over-protective mother. The first day I had to drive him to a childminder, when he was three months old and I had to go back to my job as a teacher, I sobbed openly the whole way and was bereft all day, deprived of his tiny warmth and suckling.
Letting go, entrusting this precious child to others, came hard. Fortunately, the process has been cumulative and gradual. The Lad is adventurous, independent and was bitten early by the travel bug. Three years ago, he travelled to Nepal, for three weeks, with an organisation called Outposts – and had a life-changing time there. He loved it. He thrived.
He is now nineteen. Not just a man, but very much his own man, if you know what I mean. I have had to learn to loosen that rope, bit by bit, inch by painful inch.
The biggest wrench, and yet also the most profound joy, came on Friday. Boy and his Lass have now gone off on their travels for a few months. They will be visiting various countries and having, I know, an absolutely amazing time. I know that they will grab every opportunity, that they will flourish – and that, when they go to university, their experiences of other lands, other lives, other customs will mark them out from those released from heart and hearth more latterly.
I did not want a long-drawn-out goodbye. It would have hurt too much. The short, sharp goodbye was what I sought, therefore. For this reason, I suggested a meal, at a local eatery, with the Young Things and another parent, one of the Lass’s.
We sat amidst beautiful surroundings, outside, in weather which swooped and soared and dived, caught between high sun and murmuring, ominous heavy cloud. We ate and laughed and took photos and talked of the adventure to come.
I had had some private time with my boy, as we drove over in two separate cars – but Parent B was going to ferry both Globe Trotters to the next stage of the outbound journey – and I knew, therefore, that my son and I would part, albeit temporarily, in the sunny beauty of a rural al fresco cafe.
We hugged, warmly and under a benison of spring sun. I felt enormous love for, and pride in, the traveller I had held in my arms as a baby and now struggled to release as an adult. But release him I did, with a smile and heart-felt blessings upon his adventure-to-come.
I watched as he walked to the other car, got in. I stood, smiling but feeling forlorn inside, as Parent B started the car, reversed out, drove towards the exit, both nineteen year olds waving energetically at me.
I blew my son a few kisses in with the waves, and felt tears leaking out and down my cheeks as the car disappeared from view and I was left alone in sun and wind.
Fortunately, I had arranged to go to a friend in the village where I used to live – and he, another pal and I were bound for Bristol and Rusty Shackle (about which I wrote yesterday) that evening. My friend was sympathetic. The gig was magnificent. My son texted from the airport just before take-off. We will keep in touch thanks to the wonders of modern technology.
I felt the nineteen-years-thinned umbilical cord stretch until it could not take the strain anymore and, finally, snapped. I gave my son to the universe, though he will always be lodged in my heart and soul. I let him go with all the generosity of spirit I could muster. I understood something which had eluded me for so long: That by allowing his world to open and expand, by positively encouraging him to live life the way he wants (rather than the way I might need for insecure reasons), by letting him go out into the wider world, I was also expanding my own mind and horizons – for, as he said a few weeks ago, I am now free to do the same. Age is no bar.
I clung on in so many ways: To the boy, to my marriage, to the very nice village I lived in for so long, to my own fear and need and insecurity.
But releasing is like a game of Dominoes: Once you push one over, let one go, a chain reaction starts and the whole lot slides gently onto the surface upon which you are playing. Perhaps I had to let go of my marriage and former home first. Perhaps, by moving to Glastonbury and asserting my own independence, I was more easily able to admire and truly acknowledge the independent, separate life lived by my offspring.
I am going to miss him. But also I look forward to hearing snatches of his adventure as and when he can divulge them. Tears are never very far away at present. But there is happiness and excitement too. I know that the two of them will make the most of every adventure, every new area, over the next few months because that is the sort of people they are.
But it is not easy and I will not pretend that it is. The bond between a mother and a child is often one of the strongest nature creates, and many umbilical cords remain uncut, in the emotional sense, for far longer than is healthy for either.
My son and I have a new bond to build now, a more mature one. I am no longer his primary caregiver. But I will always be his mother.
Fly free, Son! Be happy! Be loving and forgiving, inquisitive and strong! Relish the new and build layers of experience in mind and soul! See you soon!