Letter to my son: you are leaving home today

You are leaving home today. I keep repeating that statement over and over in my mind, trying to understand what it means. I had your life to prepare you for this, sometimes wishing it would come fast and other times hoping this day would never come. However, most of the time I have been preparing and preparing you, madly gathering the questions and answers of life in the hope that I have not forgotten anything. I keep going through the list inside my head; Checking off all the things that I know I’ve already told you, so many times.

As tempting as it is to slip some of the greats into casual conversation, I correct myself and let it go. An image of your face appears before me and I see your eyes look up and your mouth tighten with that expression of yours that we both know so well. “Mom, I know, you’ve already told me hundreds of times.”

Well, you know me well enough to expect a letter hidden in your luggage with just a couple of pages of instructions on “how to stay safe and sound.” You might even hope to find food there, a little whim to keep going. And lots of XXX scrawled on a note like loud kisses on your bare belly.

Protecting you and preparing you has been a big part of who I am; It is difficult to redefine myself and accept that my work is done.

I remind myself that this is about you, but as usual, here I do it again about myself. Slightly neurotic, I find myself wanting to explain or apologize or get some kind of absolution from you. I want to go back to your story and get your attention and erase all my mistakes. I admit I’ve been selfish and hypocritical at times, and I don’t want you to go away now thinking it was your fault or that you didn’t deserve better.

Yeah yeah I hear you say ‘Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter’.

I really want to tell you the promises I made, while you slept beneath my heart so many years ago. So real and deep to me and so intense that I’m sure I’d cry if I tried to tell you. You, of course, would switch from one leg to the other and bear my revelation with discomfort and impatience.

Mini movies of first steps, first words and first everything else consume me. Tooth fairies and Santa Claus and Easter bunnies. Small trophies, wall posters, clay models and Lego buildings.

I’m indulging myself, it’s my prerogative, but I’ve promised to keep it all to myself. I want to remember, at a time when you have one foot outside the door. I come back with the baby and you move forward with the man. You have freedom, independence and adventure on your mind. I know you are ready; capable, competent, and smarter than I’ll ever be.

My attitude changes when I accept that you don’t need any precautions, no more moralization; no more “You know what to do …”

And although I have represented myself as a parent and teacher, I see so clearly that I have also been the student. I have learned a lot from you, you have played a very important role in shaping me into the person that I am. You have taught me well and I appreciate it.

Now, I am forced to tell you all the things about you that fill me with pride and wonder. Another long list of what you have achieved, the person you are, your character and integrity. I want to place wishes on you and insist that they all come true for you. I want you to be at the head of the table and for everyone who knew you to come up and pay tribute to you. But you would hate that too.

It is never about what you have done or anything you are capable of doing. It’s just about who you are; the real value is in the fact that you exist.

No, you don’t need to be told who you are or what you are capable of. You don’t judge yourself for those things and I don’t want you to either. You are your own person and you feel comfortable in your own skin, and at the end of the day, that tells me that I have done well. That tells me that you are ready for the world and the world will be better for having you as a participant.

I don’t really need to tell you any of this, even wondering now what impact any of the words have had. I think I have taught you by example, but more than that, I think you have always known my heart. The umbilical cord could simply be a symbol of the heart-to-heart connection between mother and child.

When you leave today, I will light an imaginary candle and place it on the windowsill. Think about it, if you go into the shadows or if you need to light up. May it always be your beacon.

And in general, there are only two things left to say to you: “I am proud of you and I love you.”

Copyright Sonya Green


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