Behavior of an un-becoming parent

frogI sent the Dude a tiny frog. It’s supposed to bring him luck. Luck was the one thing he wanted most for me to send, aside from Pop-tarts and something to stop his typical winter to spring nosebleeds. They have a CVS not too far from campus, but I’m happy for something I can do for him, even if his father does think I spoil him. As far as I’m concerned, I’d be spoiling him if I bought him a car. A pack of NasalCease is not much of an indulgence.

I’m struggling with having him gone. As much as I love the freedom of my days, the lack of detritus in my car, and the ability to cook foods that not only touch each other, but intermingle, some days I still feel the warmth of his toddler-sized body on my shoulder. It’s an ache that goes through to the bone.

I miss his humor–the lightness of his spirit. When winter’s gray reaches in and curls its tentacles around my heart, I have to pry them off by myself. Some days it’s hard to conjure the will to try. He will always be my son, but he is no longer my child.

Which is why I can’t write about him anymore.

It’s not that he’s no longer entertaining, or interesting. Our common love of humor, baseball and Cadbury Robin’s Eggs are bound in our shared DNA, but his story is no longer mine to tell.

People have often asked what the Dude thinks about my writing, and I tell them I’m not writing about him. I’m writing about me. While they think they know him, they only know the Dude that exists within the context of my relationship with him. He was the sun at the center, and I wrote about the view from orbit.

Without his gravitational pull, I became untethered. My day was one big, blank page, and there is nothing a writer dreads more. I stared at the white space, reached for the words and found absolutely nothing.

I hunkered down in my sweats and watched television. I can attest that at any given time, some variant of Law & Order is airing somewhere on cable. Every so often, I’d haul myself out of hermitdom and do something drastic to bring me back to my life. I even dyed my hair pink. If I was looking for some sort of personal anchor, that wasn’t a good way to find it. It only made me feel more foreign to myself.

My only solution is to go back to the beginning, to strip away the habits and practices linked to my old life, and find the ones that serve the new. Like the Dude, I am a student, but in a different classroom.  He is learning how to become  who he will be.I am doing the same, but first I have to do the opposite. I will need to un-become the Dude’s Mom and experience what it means to be me absent of the label.

I need to face the empty page, and fill it with adventures of my own. I’ll need some luck. Maybe I’ll get a frog of my own.

12 comments on “Behavior of an un-becoming parent

  1. Nina Brugel says:

    Wow! Jeannine – that is powerful, honest and beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes as I, too, learn how to redefine and rediscover who I am in the face of my children discovering who they are. Thank you! xoxo

  2. Mindy Gaertner says:



  3. Kris Vihovde says:

    Hugs to you, my friend!

    When Kaia left last fall, it hit me that I literally had no set schedule – no place I had to be at a consistent time each week. And a chunk of my adult interactions disappeared, since they were tied to kid-based activities. Haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it. Still trying to find a group of women like those I have worked with in the past – it’s easy to find mono-maniac groups, but harder to find those with a wider range of interests that line up with mine.

    On the plus side, being able to wake up on my own schedule is a big benefit, as is seeing Kaia thrive at college (even though we only hear from her sporadically). She’s doing spring break in Italy with her art history class this week, so we won’t see her again until May.

    Random thought for you – it’s long been on my wish list to see a Twins spring training game in FL. And the Sox train in the same part of FL, and frequently play the Twins, would you have any interest in meeting there for a few days next spring? With or without hubbies – Jim isn’t a big baseball fan, but I know he’d enjoy seeing you and John if we make this happen.

    Happy spring!


  4. A new beginning…good luck on your journey! A blank page offers so many possibilities.

  5. “He will always be my son, but he is no longer my child,” and “Without his gravitational pull, I became untethered.” and “I will need to un-become the Dude’s Mom and experience what it means to be me absent of the label.” Jeannine, you really nail this – to unbecome the child’s mother in order to become a ME … powerful, true and oh! so painful. All the more poignant for having just the one – so much intertwined in that one relationship. Nothing like the bond between a mother and her son. Nothing at all. I wish you tenderness toward yourself, along with laugher and frogs.

  6. aviets says:

    Yes. Oh yes. I’m three years into separating from our youngest and still struggling with all the same thoughts and emotions. I’m so glad you shared.

  7. I’ve been mostly an empty-nester for years, but I still shed tears.

  8. I’ll get back to making people laugh, I promise.

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