When the boys were younger, I earned the title of Helicopter Mom. In fact, I probably could have won an award for Top Helicopter Mom. I helicoptered so good, so close, so perfectly.
But helicoptering is exhausting, and I decided that really wasn’t the type of parent I wanted to be.
So over the years, I forced myself to sit down at the playground—which is why you’ll see me read or even, gasp, look at my phone. I want them to learn independence and play with other kids. We play enough at home. I’ve also forced myself to let them go outside and play, to walk to their friend’s house in the neighborhood, to do things and go places without me.
Which is why my sons are currently on vacation. Without either parent.
They’ve spent weekends away. I’ve spent time away from them for work and to get away for the weekend with my husband. Two weeks ago, they went with my mother-in-law to my nephew’s birthday party for the weekend… and our youngest son FaceTimed me in the middle of the night in tears.
“It’s too far away.”
I reassured him he’d survive, that he was safe with his Nina. After he calmed down and we ended the call, I began to worry about the vacation he’s on right now. Not only further away, but this trip lasts longer to boot. All week leading up to their departure, I reassured him that he could FaceTime me any time he wanted to talk. He could text me when he wanted to tell me something or ask me a question. I told him the only times I wouldn’t be available: when I was working out or running (though I paused a workout today), when I was on a work call, or if I happened to be too deeply asleep to hear his call or text tone. He accepted all of this and went off on vacation without much fanfare.
I just didn’t expect for me the one to feel homesick. Or, rather, kidsick.
He FaceTimed me this morning after a bike ride with his grandparents and before heading down to the beach for the day. He said he missed me a lot. I told him I missed him, too. I let him know about my plans for the day. We talked for a few minutes, and then he ran off to get on sunblock.
And my stomach started to hurt.
Being away from my boys for work or just a weekend doesn’t make me feel much of anything, though maybe a little more ready to handle whatever parenting wants to throw at me. But my sons being away from me?
Apparently it’s really triggering.
I don’t normally have to FaceTime my sons because they live in my house. They’re either at school, at home, on the ball fields, or with friends and family. I know what they’re doing. It’s my job to know what they’re doing.
I don’t know what my daughter is doing most days. Sometimes she replies to my texts, and sometimes she doesn’t. She’s a teen; they have more important things to do than text their (birth) mothers. Sometimes she says hi as she walks by when I’m FaceTiming with her mom. Sometimes she FaceTimes me and asks me to buy her a hedgehog that lives here. But I don’t always know where she is, what her schedule is, or what she’s doing on any given day.
And not knowing what my boys are doing, what they’re eating, how they’re feeling at any given moment this week is poking at all the places I normally try to keep un-poke-able. All of my parenting insecurity, which stems from the placement of my daughter for adoption, seems to be on fire, bells whistling, up in my face.
I logically acknowledge the difference in circumstance. I was very sick and felt I couldn’t parent my daughter, so I placed her—permanently—for adoption. The two parents who live in this immediate family unit couldn’t go on vacation this year, so they jointly decided to send the boys on vacation with their grandparents and extended family. Yes, I see the differences. I acknowledge them. I recognize the undertones.
But I feel like a mother without any of her children. I feel lost. I feel scared. I feel anxious. I feel like I need to drive to the beach and bring them home. Immediately. My helicopter blades are whirring faster than I can think or type and I just want to take off. Anxiety isn’t logical. Guilt and shame aren’t either.
I miss my boys. I miss my daughter. I’m not really used to missing them both at the same time. It’s new, and I don’t really like it very much. I am grateful for time with my husband, but I’m ready for our sons to come home. It’s simply too much for me to miss them all at once.