Awesome mom? Or world-class liar?

Yesterday my baby turned 21.

I’m still trying to let that fact sink in.

I think what I’m having the most trouble accepting (besides that fact that it’s making me feel old) is the way this birthday played out.

We discussed what he wanted for this big birthday a few weeks ago. I’ll be taking him shopping for a new suit when he’s home for spring break. Note: This request is less boring than it might seem. Our son loves to dress up (both as in playing “dress-up” and as in being a “sharp-dressed man”). So from his perspective, a new suit is a real treat rather than just a utilitarian necessity. From my perspective, giving him something he really wants AND getting to spend the day with him, shopping and having lunch, is a total win. So the big gift is taken care of.

We put a little package in the mail for him, just a fun thing for him to open on his special day. I texted him first thing with a birthday message.

All the boxes were checked. Birthday managed. Well done, Mom and Dad.

Except not really. Not in my heart of hearts.

Because this year things are noticeably different. Our boy has grown and matured over this year of being away at college until he’s almost unrecognizable. Not so much the goofy, happy-go-lucky kid and more the serious, thoughtful almost-adult.

A lot of that is down to his responsibilities as an R.A. Besides the extensive work load that comes with the job, he’s dealt with some pretty heavy situations over this past school year. Takes regular “mental health first aid” training and has needed to use it with the younger students on his floor more than once. Experienced the arrest and subsequent murder trial of one of his fellow R.A.’s, in a case that is sobering and heartbreaking.

It’s no wonder he’s changed over the course of this school year.

Then, too, he’s spending more  and more time with his girlfriend. His attentions are firmly fixed in a direction that is not home.


So I’m dutifully playing the role of awesome mom. Deliberately choosing to recognize that all this is normal – quite good, even. Our son has become an even more amazing young man than ever. My role is diminishing, and that’s as it should be.

It’s great that he spent his birthday evening at a friend’s house, carefully planning his first foray in to the world of alcoholic beverages (and yes, I’m quite certain that’s actually true) in a safe setting. No time for a birthday phone call or FaceTime? No problem. Have a great time!

It’s great that when his father and I travel to his university tomorrow to take him out for a birthday dinner before his choral concert, getting to see him for the first time in a couple of months, his girlfriend will be joining us. She’s lovely! Glad to have her with us!

That’s the awesome mom side. The side that’s supportive, perfectly ready to let go, thoroughly mature and reasonable.

But there’s also the world-class liar side. The part of me that would give anything to re-live that evening 21 years ago when he was soft and warm and  brand-new, when he fit perfectly in my cradling arms. The part of me that aches like crazy over letting go. The part I very carefully keep hidden away, because that’s what a mom should do when her babies are ready to move on.

I usually avoid speaking the truth about this one-of-a-kind pain. Because if you share it, some hearty, well-meaning soul is certain to come back with “Well, that’s what being a parent is all about – preparing them to take off on their own.” Or “But what is there to be sad about? You’ve done your job and now you can sit back and relax!” Yeah,  I really hate those hearty, well-meaning souls.

Cuz right now all I’m feeling is the “liar” side.


11 thoughts on “Awesome mom? Or world-class liar?

    • It can be so hard to describe that strong pull in both directions, especially when I hear so many parents claiming they’re whooping it up and finally enjoying life because they’ve got their kids out of the house. I just don’t get that. Do they not like their kids? Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I had to return to WP–there are people I have to visit because I miss the “conversation”. I’m catching up here and there. I feel your pain about your youngest growing to adulthood and it seems they have less and less time for mom. I’m positive that the love stays the same.


    • Wow, I sure wish stupid WordPress hadn’t freaked out and hidden all your comments right when you returned. I just figured you had stopped commenting because you were trying to take a break. But I would have loved to have read this note from you right at the time. I was really struggling that day, and your words would have helped! Many thanks to you, but no thanks at all to WordPress.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This came at just the right time. My oldest is so busy at school and with friends and social obligations. I know it is as it should be, but I miss him so much. It’s Spring Break and he’s off on an adventure, so we won’t actually see him until the end of the school year. Sigh… Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, this made me teary. It is ‘our job’ but oh, what a sucky, thankless one it seems at times! But you should take pride. He sounds like an entirely awesome young man. And an awesome young man always has an awesome mom behind him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you. That means a lot. Just this morning I remembered an old saying, “A son’s a son till he takes a wife, but a daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.” So far that seems to be playing out…a earlier than I would like.


  4. I hear you! My baby will turn 21 in October. He is also away at college and has a girlfriend and life that I’m not quite part of. He’s coming home today for spring break and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this- I’ve seen the changes in the pictures on Facebook. I know he’s becoming a man and yes, it does make my heart ache! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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