Yesterday my 18 year old son headed off to Virginia Beach with some friends. I was delighted. I had speculated that having a full time summer job would result in his optimizing his weekend time and was delighted to see this seemed to be the case.
He was to pick up his friends around 10am. At 9am he was looking for something that I knew how to find. I had had a bit of a lie in, so I hopped up and headed to the kitchen to get a few things together for him.
By the time he left at 10am, I had made his to-go coffee, coated him in sunscreen, packed a small cooler with cold drinks and some snacks, and helped him tidy up his car.
He took off and I wondered:
What would the same departure look like from Dad's house?
And that is where my guilt lies.
I know these sons of mine need to be independent at some point, but I absolutely love mothering them. When I suggested that my son change to a white t-shirt from navy because of the temperature, he heeded my advice.
When I mother them I feel useful, smart and validated. I feel like I'm doing everything I can for someone that I love, and they feel that.
When they venture off to Dad's I feel like I have abandoned them to find their way on their own. And I am not disparaging their father by any means, but he and I had roles and his didn't generally include coating his sons in sunscreen. When I imagine the departure from Dad's to the beach I speculate a lack of lip balm and sunglasses.
I wonder if my sons get angry that I'm not there to help. I don't think so but I don't know. I just know that I feel badly that they are not mothered all the time.
And so the guilt: that I essentially chose me over them, by leaving. I can talk myself through it...that I am a better mother now that I am healthier and happier, that they are capable, that their Dad is there...but I sure do wish I hadn't had to make that choice.
Some things just are. There is no fix. I want my kids with me all the time. I think they benefit from my love and care. I surely benefit from having their souls in my midst. When they are gone I feel like a chef with all her ingredients but no one to cook for.
I understand that they glean great benefit from their father's love and it's my role as their mom to foster and facilitate that relationship. I do that.
Intellectually I know the boys are fine in their father's care, that this amicable divorce has not left deep scars. I still want to pack their coolers and help them ready for each day, for each new adventure.
I don't let the guilt and sadness of not being able to do that fill me up and weigh me down, but I have to feel it and acknowledge it in order to carry on.
It simply is.