My Oldest Child Is Leaving Soon, And I’m Dreading The Void

Portrait of mother and son for prom night
Linda Raymond/Getty

Every morning, my oldest child is my alarm clock. Since COVID hit and he’s been home from school, he’s stayed on that early-morning schedule. He has always been an early bird and I’ve never had to worry about him running late.

Even after he got his license and he would drive his brother and sister to school, he’d be the one making sure they weren’t running late, have the car warming up, and be anxious to hit the road.

We’ve been watching the news together while I jump around and exercise and he has his breakfast before starting his classes.

This morning I woke up to him pulling out of the driveway before 6:30 — we were out of milk and he went to the store to pick some up.

He loves his schedule and thrives on his routine so I (almost) always know what to expect from him. He has a sense of humor that makes me mad at him and laugh my ass off at the same time.

Since his father and I divorced, he’s stepped up. He wanted to learn how to use the riding mower he used to watch his father ride every week. He doesn’t mind snow blowing our driveway, and he’s the one who’s responsible for keeping the washer fluid in my car. While I never wanted him to feel this kind of pressure —no kid should feel like they have to be the “man” of the house —it’s in his soul to take control and be in charge.

Now that he’s reached his senior year of high school, it’s becoming a bit too real that he’s going to be leaving soon. And I can’t even wrap my head around the void that’s going to leave in these four walls.

I don’t even try to choke it down in small doses. I’m going to have to let the feelings wash over me as they come. To be honest, I’ve been dreading the day he moves out since he was born. After meeting him, my world was flipped and changed, and there’s no way it can go back to what it was before I became his mother.

I’ve gotten to have him every day since then. I haven’t had to go long without seeing him. He hasn’t had a big, separate world that I haven’t been a part of. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and not hear him walk to the bathroom or hear his voice as he grabs for his keys and tells me he’s going to work.

When he goes, the void he will leave for me — and his brother and sister — is going to be hard for all of us to navigate.

Your oldest is the one who shows you the way, and many times they show their siblings the way (whether you ask for their help or not). They are the one who changes you and shapes your journey through motherhood. They are the one who is right there with you as you both experience so many firsts together. Your bond is different and unshakable.

I know I will see him. I know I will always be his mother. I know we will always love each other as he enters his new journey and becomes more independent.

But once he leaves, it’s going to change. It will never be the same as it is right now. I wish more than anything I could stop time.

People talk about Empty Nest Syndrome. They say it’s hard when your kids leave. But they don’t talk about the pain. Like, just thinking about it as I sit here makes my heart physically hurt. What are mothers supposed to do with that? When will I feel okay with the fact that a huge piece our family is missing? When will we get used to the different dynamic, and the fact that one of our people is gone?

You feel like you have so much time with your kids — then, before you know it, you feel it closing in. Before you know it, you are down to the wire. You feel the angst bubble in your chest every time you sit with the fact that your oldest is about to leave … and let me say, it’s not fun.

My oldest does so much for this family without even knowing it. He adds an element that’s irreplaceable.

Just like all the other firsts we got through together, we will have to get through this one. He will be fine, and I won’t be — but one of the harsh realities of being a mother is that it has to be that way, whether I’m ready for it or not.



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