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Deborah DiSesa Hirsch A parent learns to let go

July 24, 2018

Suicide’s been in the news lately, not just celebrities but, sadly, ordinary people, too.

What brings this to mind is an article I read on Mother’s Day about a young man who killed himself at college. While the school knew he was “crashing and burning” (their words) from the pressures of school, they did not notify the parents (due to their privacy rules). So the son, in his despair, committed suicide and the parents never had a chance to know what was going on, or to help prevent it.

Now that my son is a senior (or a “rising” senior, as they call it, which makes me think of him flying off into the sky, which, I guess, is what really happens), I’m really starting to worry about how I’m going to let go.

I’m just not very good at that.

Fall feels far away but it will be here in a flash. A friend is helping us navigate the college admissions process. It’s coming.

But what scares me most about college is that my son doesn’t talk to me. I understand this is his way of breaking away but as a mom who tends to start panicking when he mentions that he might want to go to college in Minnesota (where I lived for one winter, where they have two seasons — winter and road repair), it throws me.

And when he goes to college, I won’t have the physical presence (OK, growling and scowling in his room but at least, he’s home) to know that he’s safe. I realize this is a normal part of growing up, but if he’s in the Twin Cities, how will I know if he’s upset he doesn’t have someone to make him scrambled eggs for breakfast?

I’m certainly aware that, even now, we don’t always know what they’re up to. But when they’re not a bedroom, or car ride, or even text message away, the mind — at least, my mind — starts to travel, and, of course, I imagine the worst.

I recently lost my cell phone, my one way of communicating with my kid. (What did we do before texting?) Which got me, even more, to think about how I will prepare for, and handle, not really knowing anything about what’s going on in his life.

He’s what I’ve built my life around, for 17 years.

It’s not like he doesn’t let me know about how my need to hang on drags on him. He tells me if I see him at school to pretend I don’t know him. I got it again when I took him to pick out the prom attire.

The salesman was annoyed with me when I tried to pick his jacket. Then it was on to pants and I let him do that with the salesman, too. The pants he picked needed to be lengthened. I looked at him, so tall and skinny, and saw the man he is becoming, in a new way.

You are moving out, and on, with your life, as you should be, and what I was seeing was the toddler who always hugged my leg when there were strangers around, who was never coming back.

I’m really, really trying to give up control, although I admit I did exert some when we arrived to pick up his prom date and he texted her to come out!

I guess the bottom line is that we want to be there for our kids, to make sure they are safe. And at this age, you really can’t do that anymore.

My son doesn’t tell me much so I’m not sure I would know if anything was wrong. To have him potentially so far away, not under my roof, how would I know if he needed help, too? I feel a little sick, thinking about it. But, hands off.

I guess this is where we start.

Writer Deborah DiSesa Hirsch lives in Stamford. Her blog is hotmedfax2018.blogspot.com.

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