I have come to learn that there are many different kinds of "pulling away."
As I get closer to the day when my oldest son heads off to college, it makes sense that goodbyes are on my mind. But it isn't the physical pulling away from the curb and heading off to college that I'm writing about. It is the psychological change that happens as my boys hit their teens and pull away in the sense of connectivity. I'm now knee-deep in the third pulling away and it is the hardest of the three, and I'm not sure why.
There has been the here's-your-hat-what's-your-hurry pulling away, when this energetic teen couldn't spend a minute of down-time with us without going out of his mind (and driving us all there with him). It hurt to have my company be considered so undesirable! But it wasn't unexpected. And I admit to encouraging the space, at times.
There has also been the pulling away that has felt like prying his hands, one finger at a time, from the handle of home. Where constant prodding, brainstorming, and offers of way-paving were met with deep-seated resistance and flat-out rejection. I suppose that only vaguely resembles pulling away. It is more pushing than pulling, but it is still a kind of reluctant, necessary, underlying pulling away.
This last one, is so subtle. There is no deliberate planning to ensure maximum time with friends. There is no obvious withdrawal. There is no need on my end for persuasion toward going out or inviting friends over. It is found in small steps away such as a new disinterest in usual conversation topics. It is found in the polite declines of offers to do the things we liked to do together. But I can usually still bring him back to pre-teen mode: He will even pose for a picture holding a doorknob if I ask it just right.
It is harder because he is the youngest. I know. And because I didn't really have the perspective or experience to see it in real-time with the others. The two older ones still drive a lot of activity around the house, but I can see the direction in which their pulling away is taking them. At the same time, I cherish the new mother-son relationships developing. I'm thankful for the little stuff. Liam spent most of the drive from Boston to Philadelphia patiently trying very hard to explain quantum physics to me. I will always support his passions, keeping up as best I can. I should get an A for effort as a captive student. Garrett makes sure to warn me when to look away from gory movie scenes (we don't watch many romantic comedies in my house). If this is budding compassion, I'm all for it. He has figured out pretty much on his own that Mass is hard for me. That gives me hope.
And in this season of thanksgiving, I'm thankful to have them all under our roof. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I'll be sure to coerce them into a family game of Scrabble, for some forced connectivity. They moan at the beginning, but then we settle in for some good old fashioned fun. At the core of it all, I just try to listen. Sometimes it is all I can do. Other times it is all I need to do.
So they pull away. But if I'm blessed, we won't ever lose our connectivity completely. They will have successes and failures. Loves and losses. And they may seem physically or emotionally far away. But I'm confident that the pulling away won't take them to a place we can't both share. I may be wrong. But I hope I'm right.