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Summer Vacation, Motherhood & Anxiety

by Ilana Angel

July 29, 2013 | 7:05 am

Summer vacation is a stressful time in terms of motherhood.  My son is home, which is wonderful, but there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with summer.  He is home everyday, hanging with his friends everyday, and needing money everyday.  A 17 year old kid with a car is an expensive thing under normal circumstances, but summer adds to the pressure of having to keep kids entertained, while driving you crazy and spending all your money.

My son has spent part of the past 3 summers on the east coast with one of his best friends.  They go to the lake and have a fabulous time.  He went the first time during his freshman year, and today, as he approaches his senior year, he is going again.  Yesterday as we were making dinner, he said how excited he was to be leaving and I burst into tears.  I am happy for him each time he goes, but it is also hard and I spontaneously start crying for no reason.

I will miss him.  It is one thing to have your kid out for the day with his pals, but to have him on the other side of the country is stressful.  What will I do when he goes to college?  It has been him and me for so long that sometimes I think the best thing would be to just get a job at his university so I can catch a glimpse of him everyday.  Ridiculous, but I am not ready for him to not be under my roof.

When you have spent 17 years living your life for someone else, how do you live for yourself? I worry about me more than him. This kid is built to explore and experience things.  He is independent and will conquer the world. I left my mother to move to America and he has that same spirit. He has dreams that will take him anywhere he wants to go and that is really wonderful. His future is very bright and I don’t worry about that at all.

I have spent his whole life preparing him to leave me. He is certainly able to go back east for three weeks, and come next summer he will be ready to move away for college. We teach our kids how to leave us, but nobody teaches us how to let them go. I don’t know why I am so emotional this time around. Maybe his getting older and my seeing what it will be like when he’s off to college has thrown me.  Maybe I’m just a Jewish mother.

I feel anxious. I have asked him a million times about his suitcase, and what he needs to pick up from the store before he leaves. I am driving myself crazy with all the questions.  When he went to bed last night, and I asked a silly question for the 20th time then burst into tears, he looked at me with both compassion and relief. Compassion because he knows I will miss him, and relief that he is getting away from me for a few weeks.

When I drive him to the airport today I will put on a brave face but tears will come.  I will watch him walk onto the plane and as he turns the final corner I will cry.  I will sit in the airport having an anxiety attack until he takes off.  I will drive home and wait until he arrives safely.  I will lie down on his bed and have a good cry, and when he calls me to check in, which he always does, I will be joyous and he will know I am faking it.

I am going to be busy while he is gone.  I have a lot going on with work, I will see friends, I will finish books I started but have not finished, and catch up on things I need to do that get set aside to hang out with my boy.  I will also miss my son in a way that aches. I will think about calling him every five minutes, and instead will not call and wait for him to call me. I will want to hear everything, yet not ask too many questions.  I will be good.

My son is sleeping. He will get up soon and is going to be so excited.  He is so lovely he will pretend today is not a big deal and be cool so as not to make me think he is happy to leave.  We will both play the game.  He will try to control his giddiness, and I will control my crying.  We will have a wonderful day and the ride to the airport will be filled with stories about what he will do at the lake, his favorite place, with his friend.

My son will look back at these summers and remember how great they were, then one day he will be a father and when he sends his own kid off to camp or college, he will call and tell me he loves me.  He will tell me often, but on that particular day, I will hear it a little differently because he will understand me in a new way. I will call my mother today to tell her I love her, and she will hear in my voice the same thing I will here in his.

I let my son know when he should read my blog.  There are a lot he reads, some he writes for me as a guest, and many he will not read for years.  He is respectful of my work and trusts me to know which ones are appropriate for him.  He will not read today’s blog.  He will leave for his trip thinking I am excited for him to go.  He knows I am sad so no point in him reading all about it. One thing I know for sure is he knows that I love him.

Today I will put on a happy face while I do my son’s laundry, unpack and repack the suitcase he jammed all his clothes into, go shopping to get a few last minute things, take him for sushi, and drive him to the airport. I will come home and wait. Wait for him land safely, and wait for him to come home. Motherhood gives me my greatest joy, summer vacation is a great thing, and anxiety can be managed by drinking wine and keeping the faith.

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