Bella drives me nuts on a daily basis these days. I cringe when I remember my own relationship with my mother during my teen years. We didn’t talk, we just yelled at each other – except for when I shaved my head senior year, during which time she just passed me notes. My relationship with Bella is better than that, but the constant rejection and confrontation involved with parenting a prickly and dramatic teenager is painful and draining.
I even had a friend say to me the other day, that it must be God’s plan (not that I hold much to God’s plan) that teenagers drive you insane; it makes you look forward to the day they leave the nest with relief.
Then I got this email from my sister-in-law, whose daughter had just been dropped off for her first year away at college in San Fran, and my heart cracked, just a little. Reading the reality of saying good-bye to your only kid (I have tears in my eyes!) made me appreciate Bella just that much more today. Lisa was so eloquent, I asked if I could post her email here. Her daughter’s name is Sam.
“I can honestly say that nothing as a parent has ever been as difficult for me as dropping Sam off in San Francisco and then heading home without her. I’ll spare the details, but I’ve been a mess.
For the past year, people have been making references to “empty nest syndrome,” which for some reason, I thought had something to do with boredom. I thought I was emotionally prepared by simply knowing that I would miss her.
I have known for a while, that the mothering experience is one long exercise in letting go. From the time they are born, you give them a little more room as they need and want it. Each of those things; eating, walking, starting school, sleeping over at friend’s houses, dating, driving, and working has been as exciting for me as it has been for her. In lots of cases, those changes were kind of a relief. The difference is that I went through all of that with her. Moving her away is so severe in comparison. I think I have been ready for each of her freedoms when the time was right and always assumed that I would be ready for this one. I just really in my heart don’t know if the time was right, for me anyway. I’ve heard so many stories about kids staying home too long and their parents wishing they would move out and I can’t relate to that at all.
I can’t distinguish what this angst is coming from. This quick break seems unnatural to me and maybe it is. On the other hand, it could be because I’ve lived with Sam for 18 years straight which doubles the time I’ve ever lived with anyone else. I never went through anything like this with my own mother, who never had a problem with ‘the letting go process.’ We only lived together for a total of elven years and never for more than six at a time. My move-outs were never ceremonious. The Murdy moves seemed to all come when each was ready, not because there was a designated date set. So this is new.
Having said all that; Sam is doing great. The move went smoothly and Asia showed up! Sam loves San Francisco and is excited about living there. Her roommate is sweet and she has already made friends, including the only other Laguna Beach resident, who attended a different high school. She’s already got a little group to hang out with and an active social life. Classes will start on Thursday. I’m sure this college choice was a great decision.
I’ll be talking to each of you soon. I love you all and just wanted you to know that the reason you haven’t heard much from me lately is that I’m going through this adjustment.”