I have two sons, aged 22 and 19. In the last few years since I moved north, I have only seen my boys a few times, bar when my youngest son lived with me for two years to complete his schooling. I think about them every day. Usually just in passing, such as hoping my oldest son will make some comment on Facebook that tells me a bit about his life and how he is travelling. He is a snappy dresser with a sweet girlfriend, he works at a place he loves and he is finally doing the uni course that I think he is well suited to – journalism. He has high falutin’ tastes but underneath it all he is a sweet, desperate to please young man, extremely loyal and easily hurt by those who are not. My youngest son is a typical non-communicative boy, who rarely rings and when he does it’s not much more than grunts and clicks. He is an amazing worker, quiet and driven, and a bit of a geek cave-dwelling loner who loves music and sound engineering, but he is not without friends. Both my boys are beautiful looking young men, handsome, tall, slim, all cheekbones and wide smiles. Like all mothers, I love my boys to bits, and I’m proud of their achievements. I remember when my oldest boy was unhappy and his adolescence was miserable. There was nothing I could do short of love him and be a bit miserable with him. I remember when my youngest son broke his arm three times at school and I didn’t have the fight in me to sue the school for negligence.
Why am I writing about them today? Because as I begin the weary trudging path of my final year of the PhD, I am aware of how much I miss them. So much it hurts. I’ve not seen them since July last year and I can’t just pop over to see them or ask them out for lunch or have them over to dinner. I live 1800 kilometres from my boys, who have chosen to remain living in the “cool” city, and I can’t just get on a plane like I can get in my car, and drive round and spend a couple of hours with them. It was my choice to move – to a new husband in his home state, whose younger children and career prospects took precedence over mine.
My relationship with them has not always been easy. After a few difficult months where my oldest boy at 16 years spent more time at his dad’s house than at mine, I decided enough was enough and that he and his brother should live with their dad full time. It was not a happy parting – I made foolish mistakes then with my approach and hurt them terribly. But it was good for them. They were able to see that their dad is not all they thought he was, and they can see that there is a good reason he and I are not together. The experience of living with their dad has made them realise how ill he is and how they will have to look after him as he ages. It has grown my boys up, made them loyal and determined and independent. It has shown them that being a victim is not a good way to be, and that blaming everyone else for one’s problems is futile. As a consequence of this my boys are solids, they are oaks, they carry my strong genes, my family’s notions of loyalty and care, and are great humans.
So, I miss them. I wonder if they are ok. I wonder if they are travelling ok. I just want to have coffee with them, darn it! I wonder how many people miss their children when they leave the nest? I’m not sure if I’ve read about it before. No-one seems to write about how mothers feel when the chicks leave, except to say things like what a relief it is, and how glad they are to have the house back again. Well, I don’t agree. I miss my youngest in particular because I rarely saw him but at least he did the dishes and I loved his kooky sardonic sense of humour. He was tidy and quiet. I loved being able to hug him and hold his body, all angles and hard planes. I miss my oldest because even though he has not lived with me for six years at least I was able to see him every day at the school where I worked, and talk to him about stuff, and I miss that conversation-in-passing stuff. The stuff you have with your family that is careless and taken-for-granted and needed. I miss all of that. But most of all I miss my boys and I miss not being able to hug them and laugh with them and get irritated by their music and despair of being able to dress my youngest in clothes other than cargo pants and t-shirts. I miss being a mum.