The Hardest Chapters
A couple of months ago, someone asked me, “What was the hardest chapter you had to write in Suddenly Single Mom?” I gave a pretty generic answer about parts that resurrected resentment, stirred up emotions I didn’t expect, or forced me to be careful how I portrayed people. Later I wished I’d been a bit more transparent, so I’ll do that here.
I found it extremely difficult to write chapters that forced me to relive how divorce, adjusting to life as a single parent who can’t drive due to low vision, losing our home, and relocating to my childhood hometown affected my kids.
My sons were 9 and 21 when their dad left, so they had different experiences and struggles. We’d always been close, but I look back on those “just me and the boys” days as a time when we bonded in a special way. We needed each other more than ever. We had no choice but to be resourceful, and the kids understood why I needed them to help out. We cooked together, played board games, and watched silly shows on Netflix because we’d cancelled cable. Since I couldn’t drive we took many walks to the store and rewarded ourselves with cheap treats. I witnessed my sons’ incredible resilience, strength, and maturity. Despite all the loss, pain, and change, both of them excelled in areas (Christian at his job and Nathan in school) that reminded me they would be okay. Which brings me to the two most difficult, difficult chapters:
“Crossing the Border” and “A Bittersweet Call.”
In the first, I wrote about the day Nathan and I moved to my parents’ house. Christian had decided to stay behind where his job was, so we had to respect his decision, which meant moving without him. Christian was a young adult who’d proven himself capable of living on his own. Many of his friends already had their own apartments. He knew he could join us at any time, and we prayed like crazy that he would. In “A Bittersweet Call,” I relived the evening when Christian called to tell me he’d signed a lease on an apartment. My prayers that loneliness would draw him to us had not been answered in the way I’d hoped for. I avoided that chapter until I ran out of excuses and had to assign myself a day.
I called my prayer partner and blubbered, “I can’t write this. Can we pray?”
“Do you want to talk about it first?”
(Sniff. Sigh.) “Sure.”
I talked. We prayed. I got busy writing. By the time I finished I remembered why I’d chosen to include it—because I wasn’t the only single mom having a hard time letting go of her adult child. I’m not going to pretend our mom/child relationships are tighter or somehow more precious than those of married moms, but I do believe it’s especially hard for us to release our kids and entrust them to God’s plan.
It feels like one more loss.
We know what they’ve been through. How will that affect their adulthood?
While other women get to enjoy extra time with a husband after all the chickies leave the nest, ours nest will truly be empty. This is probably the hardest part.
Still we have to let them go anyway, because that’s what supportive parents do. We know it would be unfair to expect them to stick around to be our source of companionship. We must constantly remember that they are not abandoning us (those of us who’ve been abandoned must make an extra effort here); they are growing up. If they wanted to stay forever that would be weird. But that doesn’t make it hurt less. So . . .
To single moms who are having a hard time letting go of your adult kids: I completely get it, and it is okay to admit it’s painful. Being sad does not mean you aren’t trusting God or aren’t willing to let go. It means you love your kids, and when we say goodbye to someone we love it’s sad. Ask God to show you a new plan for your life as you let your children discover what He has in mind for theirs.
To the friend of a single mom: Be extra kind to your friend as she lets her son or daughter go into God’s next big thing. No reminders that God only lends us our kids for a while, unless it’s to share why it has been hard for you to remember that. No “S/he isn’t a kid anymore” lectures. She is fully aware of that; she has pictures as proof. Just be sweet, be sensitive, ride out the sadness with her. Take her out to lunch or coffee. Encourage her to pursue new hobbies and passions.
For those of you who’ve said goodbye to adult kids: What made it easier? What has God taught you in the process?
About my friend:
Jeanette Hanscome is an author, writing teacher, speaker, and busy mom. Her work has been featured by Focus on the Family, Standard Publishing, Walk Thru the Bible, and Lifeway. She enjoys cooking, knitting, reading, studying the Bible, and spending time with her two incredible sons. Jeanette was born with a rare vision disorder called Achromatopsia, which means she has no color vision, is extremely light sensitive, and has visual acuity in the legally blind range. Jeanette lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.