Mind-Wandering Wednesday

Some Semi-Rational Thoughts from the Parent Saying Goodbye

My oldest child is leaving today. Again.

This time it’s to begin orientation for graduate school about 2.5 hours away. Not bad at all, considering she just returned from a year-long internship in Cairo (the Egypt one). And, prior to that had spent a semester in Tasmania (the Australia one). Which were all supplemental experiences to her four years of being 1,000 miles away from us for her undergraduate degree.

So, 106 miles? Eh. Child’s play.

It’s more what this current leave-taking signifies that has gotten my gut wrenching in ways that it only does when the phone rings at 3:00am. Which it has. And, which is never a good thing.

While thinking about this impending goodbye, I googled “daughter going away,” and one hundred forty-one million entries popped up. That’s a literal number. This topic has been broached in just about every way possible, from poems to checklists, songs to journal entries, and “Open Letters” to “10 Things I Want Them to Know” posts here, there, and everywhere.

It would seem that we parents have juuust a little bit of problem with letting go.

My daughter will be physically closer this time, but mentally I think she left us years ago. Given her strong feelings towards being independent, and frankly, out of this country, I’m not sure if she’ll ever be back with us again for longer than a week or two.

And, strangely, that doesn’t just make me sad. It makes me angry.

An article in Psychology Today would argue with me, saying that our kids can’t make us angry. That what we may think are feelings of anger, are actually feelings of inadequacy or failure as parents. I’m not sure if the writer of this article has ever been on the opposite side of a Teenage-Back-Talking contest, because anger (and confiscating a phone or two) might have registered then.

I understand the thinking here, though. That when our children behave in ways that we don’t “appreciate,” we become angry at ourselves. As in, what the heck did I do wrong here that I have a child that does X, Y or Z?

When looking for other justifications for my unpleasant slash irrational feelings, I found that some experts listed anxiety as the undercurrent for anger. I’m no scientist, but when various children of mine have asked to do things where any ounce of their safety is in jeopardy, I have found that I have a tendency to snap a bit (in, of course, an extremely loving way). An innocent social request can set off my alarm system, which then initiates Worst-Case-Scenario-Rambling (a genetic condition — thank you, Mom) all while my blood pressure and heart rate go up, and I assume my eyes start their red hypnotic spin.

It’s because I’m anxious. I’m scared. I’m terrified of anything happening to my kids that may hurt or harm them. Because these things can and have happened. And, it’s not pretty.

My daughter thinks I soar in the same formation of those parents in their swooping helicopters. And, while I’ll admit I have overprotective leanings, I feel I have a strong argument as a more moderate flyer.

Because (most times), I let them go with good wishes and a shaky smile.

When I get sad/angry, or “sangry” about our children leaving, my husband and my conscience gently remind me that, This is what growing up is about. These experiences are about them, not you. And, the kicker, You do realize that you don’t actually live with your parents anymore, right?

Ah, yes. But, that doesn’t mean that parts of me don’t wish my kids would just stick close, as in upstairs, forever.

My son performed in the high school play version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women a couple of years ago – the story of a family of six whose life’s happenings cause them to experience some extreme lows. And highs. Just like most families.

There is a point in the play where one sister, Sickly Beth as I think of her, looks around at her family and says, “Will we never all be together again?” It’s become a line that one member or the other of our own clan of six will spout out when different siblings have gone off on their different adventures.

And, I wonder. Will we ever all be together (for an extended period of time) again?

The answer makes me a whole lot sangry.

Have you ever felt “sangry” before? How do you deal with your children, friends, family, etc., leaving again…and again? Please share your thought in the comments.

This post has been a part of “Mind-Wandering Wednesdays” where I depart from the usual Writing and Book talk and just ramble. Thank you for indulging me today.

Find me on Twitter @amandahoving

10 thoughts on “Some Semi-Rational Thoughts from the Parent Saying Goodbye”

  1. One of the saddest things I ever read was “one day you will put your child down for the last time, and never pick them up again”. Sort of along the same line, stretching that cord that binds.
    Young son, who when he was smaller said he was living at home forever, last week announced he would definitely move away. Wales or Canada being the options! Makes me sangry too. Xx

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    1. My youngest used to say the same thing (I’ll live with you forever!). However, since we always talk about potentially moving once he graduates high school, he now asks…”So where do you think you’ll be in 4 years?” And, he’s asking because he’s making a mental note to NOT look at any colleges wherever we are. Weep!

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  2. I can relate to feeling sangry for sure. My son is almost 17, drives a car and has facial hair now. My daughter is almost 13 and in the past year has completely changed from a sweet innocent girl to a young woman (complete with sassy tween attitude). I was just complaining to a friend of mine (who has her own much older kids) about how much I miss my son even talking to me or looking my way…and she said that if your kid doesn’t want to be around you much anymore, that’s a sign you’ve done a good job as a parent. They are supposed to leave the nest and forge their own path in life. Still doesn’t make me any less sangry (heavy on the sad part…)

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    1. The facial hair is almost the worst part of it. And the sass, of course. Nope – facial hair. I like the sentiments of your friend, but yeah, maybe I don’t want to do such a good job. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I have been through this many times with my four grown children. But I am extremely fortunate that they all ended up settling after college within a 30 mile radius of my home, so I see them often. We get together every now and then for Sunday dinners and definitely for most holidays. I think the best thing to do if you want everyone together under the same roof for an extended time is to plan a vacation together. We spent a week at a rustic cabin with our kids (and their significant others). It was a blast and I highly recommend it for getting the family together!

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    1. How nice for you! I think future whole-family vacations will definitely have to be on my list. However, thinking about everyone grown-up with significant others (and their own families?) makes me a little light-headed. Thanks for popping over 🙂

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  4. Hi Amanda,

    I love your post and can relate as our kids went to grade school together and my oldest just moved 1000 miles away….permanently. Oh the emotions I feel are so complicated, beyond Sangry..approaching nonsensical. After reflecting I realized I was experiencing some of the stages of grief:
    1. Anger…”Just admit it kid, you think you don’t need me any more.”

    2. Depression- “ I can’t stop crying at random times.”

    3. Acceptance- “I just booked a flight to spend a weekend with him. I will sleep on his couch, he can make me breakfast and Ill take us out for dinner….and we can drink wine together….hey, maybe this won’t be so bad!”

    -Sending all of you our best💕

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