The End of “Up-Close” Parenting and Why It Feels Like Finishing off the Best Dessert

I am sad today because yet again, the quietness of my house is screaming in my ears.

During the last 20 years I have mothered two sons but now they are gone, off to college thousands of miles away.

Ok then. Keep busy I tell myself and get the day started by doing laundry. I note the small amount of dirty clothes in the hamper and the limp pile seems sadly pathetic. Like not much has been accomplished in the last few days because it isn’t overflowing with grimy volleyball uniforms, t-shirts, shorts and never ending pairs of smelly, holey athletic socks.

I actually sigh. “Maybe it will be worth running a load tomorrow.” Then I shake my head and think what mom in her right mind is depressed about not enough dirty clothes to wash. Sheesh, that is so sad.

Ok then. “Eat something I tell myself and get the day started by having a good breakfast.” I note that the fridge is filled with an assortment of deep green leafy vegetables, probiotic goodies and a multitude of left over dinners because I haven’t cut my cooking portions to accommodate feeding just two. Then I spy an old frost-encrusted, eerily discolored corn dog in the freezer drawer and think it might actually be a good idea to nuke it and eat it so that I can feel somehow magically connected to the son that used to not live a day without eating one. Get a grip crazy lady!

How did I reach this point?

I’m not sure I can explain it. There was a time I prided myself about not “boo-hooing” when I took my oldest son to college. But this year my youngest is gone as well and an achy emptiness has set in. There is a loss of life force in our household and I don’t know how to fix it.

I am living a life without an energy around me that I am used to having around me. I liken it to the feeling I get when I bite into anything labeled “fat free” or “sugar free” – to me just so unsatisfying and empty, devoid of any flavor.

I can clarify that my kids are like Bombolini to me – my favorite Italian dessert that is made up of fancy warm pudgy donuts with lemon filling, vanilla mascarpone and dusted by fairies with sparkly diamond-like granules of sugar. The enjoyment of eating this dessert is immense. Usually plated on a long white ceramic dish, every morsel is a delight. Not that my sons are sugary sweet or always delightful…But they are, to me, that feeling of inner warmth, the happy sugar high, the blessed feeling of a full tummy of something so good that it fills your soul with a dopey kind of love.
Having my boys at home, raising them as best we could, were the Bombolini years in my mind. But just like getting to the last mouthfuls of dessert, you get to those last days of having them at home and the last opportunities of up-close parenting. And then it’s done. The plate is scraped clean and empty. The donuts are “poof” gone.

Sheepishly I admit to some lame-o behavior in those last days. Boy did I try to extend the end. Like a bad scary movie with the villain that just won’t die and keeps getting up …Upon moving them into their freshman dorms I admit to actually shooing them aside to make their beds and help unpack their things. I nagged them about making sure to actually wash their sheets and clothes on a regular basis and to make sure they studied hard and partied within reason and yes please God use a condom if you get to that point with a girl you like. Looking back I realize my sons inherently knew I needed those last acts of up-close parenting and were resigned to let me do it and didn’t put up a fuss. But the fact is they were done. A bit nervous maybe but oh- so- very ready for their next stage of life.

And when I think about it, I am pretty proud that I helped get them to that point. But that doesn’t mean I’m not given to pangs of deep melancholy now that the up-close parenting job is done.

I do get it though. Now I need to move on as well, face the empty nest with resolve and forge a new day as more a wife than a mother and get on with my own life.
But man, maybe I should take another look at the corn dog…

2 thoughts on “The End of “Up-Close” Parenting and Why It Feels Like Finishing off the Best Dessert

  1. I am very excited to follow your blog!! Excellent first post. I hope this fills the void and you feel a desperate need to write! I’m not yet at this stage but I see it looming up in front of me, also like a villain that never dies.


  2. I so get it Ieva! You said everything with your words that I feel in my body. That achiness at my core, that emptiness inside. Granted, the boys are thriving, and I’m grateful they are doing well. But it’s a sad day for moms. Thank you for sharing so humorously and selflessly…


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