Slipping through my fingers all the time
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
He keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time……
He’s all of 18 ready to fly the nest. I thought I would be ready too. After all I saw this day coming a long time ago, specifically in the last one year as we worked on his college applications for US, UK, Canada, answering a mind-boggling number of questions on how he can be a great fit with the university, how he would contribute to its success and a zillion other questions that we answered in our quest to get him ready to leave for his under-graduate university. So then why now, after all this time, with just a week more to go, I am having these strong opposing feelings, almost like the ebb and flow of the tide, wanting to let go, yet craving to hold back, these strong and contradictory forces leave me feeling emotional, vulnerable and spent.
I am elated for my son. Proud of the way he has handled himself over these last couple of extremely crucial years in his education and growth. Being a teen is not easy, add to that an intense level of preparation for his final IB exams. Deadlines, revision, writing essays, project work dictated his days during the half-online, half-offline chaos caused by covid related social restrictions in Hong Kong. Add to that, international university applications which if you are aiming for the top tier universities can become a high-pressured, deliberate activity from which you have no respite for months till it’s done and submitted. Another significant addition would be peer pressure at that age, demand from school, pressure from parents and the society in general….phew! I felt exhausted just watching him go through it. But ultimately he did it and he did it with flying colours! I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Now it’s time to use all that collective work, all that success and with it the learnings from difficult times, all our teachings, our values that we imbibed in him as a family – he carries all that with him as he steps out of his protective and familiar lair into the real world. My boy about to become a man. And I can’t help feeling appreciative, excited and at the same time emotional.
Seems like yesterday when we moved to Hong Kong with my 2-year old boy and in those initial days when I missed my home, his quiet and soothing voice saying “It’s ok Mummy, I like it here,” made me feel happy and relieved. Our little walks up and down his kindergarten school, chatting about the day, his favourite Spider-Man movie or whatever it was that brought a smile to his face, brought a smile to mine. Ocean Park was a big favourite for us both as we fully utilised our Annual Passes to get as much fun as possible straight after his half-day school.
Super heroes, Lego, jigsaws, board games kept him busy, but his biggest and best playmate entered his life when he turned 4! After that I took a back-seat as both the brothers bonded over toys, over books, over movies. Indoor playground was their favourite as they ran, raced and jostled each other through the slides and the swings without the fear of getting hurt! Visits to the farm, zoo, beach, playground was something that we all looked forward to both in the UK when we moved there for some time and back here in HK. Tiring out my boys with good healthy play was my goal every single day as they were growing up. Of course they would fight after the fun, cry after the laughter, but they would also always make up as quickly with each other. Happy, exhausted boys made dinner time easy and bed time early, leaving me with some time with myself and my hubby. Simple and clear rules, discipline, love and a whole lot of time and attention made us all enjoy those good old growing up days!
Where the years have flown by….I really don’t know. I remember at the start of every school term, after a long eventful holiday, I would feel melancholic and lonely, missing their loud presence despite knowing that they would be back in a few hours. It’s difficult for me to fathom what I would feel when one of them won’t come home for months together.
When kids are little, there are hundreds of support groups for mums. From teething to healthy meals to mental and physical health and after-school activities, mums ask and answer any random question, however stupid or small or irrelevant. We usually do that up to Primary school latching on to that support system. Then suddenly your child is 12 and all that support is pulled out from under your feet, just like that. ‘Hey I still need you, I still have a lot of questions about how to parent a teen, how to teach them to say no to drugs, how to talk to them about sex. But why is nobody listening?’ Mums start going to full-time work or those already working take up challenging assignments. Mums in their 40s try to re-jig and re-start our own lives that had been put on hold looking after young children. “They are big kids, they can look after themselves,” we would cackle on those one-off parent evenings at school, fighting the urge to ask that sensitive but crucial question about how I feel lost as a teenager’s mum, question that no one might have a answer to. Honestly we are not looking for answers, we are looking for support, to just know that we are not alone.
All my bags are packed
I’m ready to go
I wish you well my son as you start this brand new journey in your life. You have a long road ahead of you. There will be many opportunities to grow, to find new ways to do things, to reach within yourself and discover strength, courage, and determination. You are at the start line. Stay on the road and finish what needs finishing, don’t give up and finish with a triumph. And at any point in time you need a pit stop, home is just a direct flight away.
To all the moms and dads who are going through this separation pangs, let’s openly acknowledge how we are feeling, take some time to ourselves, and get support from our spouses, family and friends. Good Luck to you and your fledglings who are ready to fly.
Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time…