I felt alternately clingy and self-composed that I was letting him go. On the way home the tears were non-stop. I did not think I would feel this way when we dropped off our second and youngest child at college just over a year ago. I had not felt this way when our eldest went to college three years earlier. He was very ready to fly away and I was ready for it, too. I had helped my son with his college application and we drove the four hours for his freshman orientation. It had to be empty nest syndrome because I could not come up with another answer for my feelings.
My son had been ready since high school graduation. He’d made purchases for his dorm room from bedding and cleaning supplies to a cache of snacks and his PlayStation. He had all the necessary supplies. It may be innate and it may be Boy Scout preparedness but he’s always been organized and ready. He knows what he wants and takes action. As a Bear cub in Cub Scouts he told me that he was going to go all the way and pursue his Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouting, and he did.
I have wondered why the empty nest syndrome affected me more with my son than my daughter. Was it simply that there were no more children at home? Or was it something else? I do not play favorites with my children but I have felt more protective of my son for reasons I can’t describe. Looking back, though, I saw the clues that may have been there all along.
When he was younger my son loved playing war battles with his small plastic army men, like a lot of boys. He always won. He was and is still very interested in war history, particularly World War II. His scout troop once had a sleepover on the destroyer USS Slater in Albany, N.Y. where his dad accompanied him. When his dad showed me the pictures of our son on the ship with his fellow scouts wearing a WWII – era helmet, I froze. Something in that photo triggered a flashback to the night when my husband and I were watching “Saving Private Ryan” on DVD. We stayed in a lot then. We had a two year old daughter and I was about five months pregnant with our son. I did not know then the sex of the baby. I like good surprises.
So watching that movie was another clue. By the end of the movie I was in hysterics and I did not understand why. What came to me as I was writing this was, “Was I afraid of losing him again?” This was a past life event unfolding.
After my son obtained his Eagle Scout at 18, he did what all young men in the United States must do: register with the Selective Service. I was anxious and blurted out ‘What if you get selected?’ His reply was: “What’s wrong with wanting to serve your country?” My feelings were completely brushed aside by my pride in this young man that I helped raise.
I recently read something by a spiritual teacher who reminded me that our children come through us not of us. My children chose me to be their mom for a reason. Human mothers carry their children for nine months and rear for about 18 years unlike baby birds who hatch out of egg shells and are nurtured for a short time until they are nudged out of the nest when it is time for them to leave. Unless that bird knows when it is his time to fly.