The Breakup With My Son

Momservation: “Don’t cry that it’s over. Be happy it happened.” ~Dr. Seuss

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It’s not you it’s me.

I’m just in a different place right now.

I think we need space.

I think it’s time to see other people.

Can we still be friends?

Yep, it’s breakup time. Though none of these easy let-downs ever worked for me. But it might have been because prior to meeting my future husband at nineteen, most of my breakups were through a note folded origami style with a “Pull Here” tab. And usually started with an accusation like:

“Becky told Amy, who told me, that she saw you getting together with Rachel at Tony’s party when you knew I was going out with Janine and Ana that night! You are such a poser!”

Who knew that my next break-up would be 30+ years later and that it would be with my son?

Okay, so we really didn’t break-up. But when I was trying to nail down how I felt about dropping my son back off at college for his sophomore year, I decided it felt a lot like a high school break-up.

Let me walk you through it because my daughter, who is leaving for college in a month, didn’t get the feels for this analogy either. (And if you want to know what leaving your kid at college for the first time will feel like, go back and read “Going Full Golden-Part I & II” and grab a tissue.)

So when you have your first smooshy, lovey-dovey relationship in high school the rest of the world falls away as you become consumed with each other. You do everything together. You can’t imagine your life without each other. You truly believe your hearts beat as one. You wear jewelry with each other’s name engraved on it.

But inevitably, you grow, you change, and you begin to realize, “Hmm, there is a wider world out there, it looks pretty great, and I’m feeling a little locked down here.”

But the real kicker is you’ve noticed that the person you were sure couldn’t live without you, is starting to show signs that they can. Better to be the heartbreaker than the heart breakee.

So you think about breaking up, but it makes you sad. What about the good times you had? Everything you’ve been through together? Who will be your new friends, the new group you hang out with? Am I ready to be alone at parties, games and in Spanish III? Who will laugh with me at the new Bud Light commercial and the kid who wears his hair like the Flock of Seagulls lead singer? Maybe I should wait until after Valentine’s Day…

But something’s changed and you can feel it. Suddenly everything feels off and forced. You are out of synch. You don’t laugh together anymore at Colin Quinn from MTV’s “Remote Control.” The love notes have stopped coming. Before you know it, you want your own popcorn and soda at the movies and you don’t want to share your Junior Mints. In fact, the ticket-taker is pretty cute…

Time to end it. Move on. It was a great run, but a new love awaits.

The first week…it sucks. You regret it. Your heart feels bruised. You thought this new life would be great, but all you can think of is the good times and what you’re missing together. You see them laughing and having fun with other people and it knocks the wind out of you. Have they already gotten over me?

But by the time the second week rolls around, you’re starting to remember what it’s like to be just you and it feels good. In fact, you feel guilty that you don’t feel sadder. You pick back up with all the things that brought you joy that the other person didn’t like doing. You don’t have to worry about how your decisions will affect them. You are excited to make new plans with new people and old friends you lost touch with.

And if you are truly being honest with yourself you will admit:

It’s best I let them go because there is someone out there better for them and where they are going. It’s good I let them go because there is something more suited for me out there and where I’m headed.

And now because this is my son I have left at college and not an 80’s high school breakup, I’ll bring it into sharper focus:

We were great together. Boy did we love each other. Still do. But we’ve both grown and changed and he doesn’t need his mommy anymore. Not like he used to. My son doesn’t need me holding him back just because I’m afraid he won’t still want to be in my life once he’s seen what else is out there. It’s time to let him go so he can go find the right girl for him and collect life experiences that will continue to shape him. It’s time for me to shift my focus from being first and foremost my son’s mom to rediscovering who it is to be my husband’s wife; Who it is to be me, the woman who still has so many different opportunities before her if she just has the courage to go after them. And instead of trying to live in the past and cling to the memories that were made with a different little boy, I need to accept that my son is a man now and our relationship has inevitably shifted—as it should.

So the best way to accept that and move forward was to let my son go. Break up with the idea that we can sustain this mother/son relationship as it was forged—him needing me, me taking care of him. In order to avoid the heartache of him pushing me away in order to grow, I am giving him his space to figure out who he is and what he wants out of life.

Because I love him so much, and always will, I’m “breaking up” with my son so he can find the right girl and the new life he’s destined to be with. Staying close to home with me wouldn’t make him happy, and seeing him happy (healthy and safe) is all I’ve ever wanted for him.

It helps knowing I will always be my son’s first love, his best girl. It helps to hear him say, “I know you’ll always be there for me.” It helps that instead of pining for, as 80’s pop star Tiffany once sang, “Could’ve been so beautiful, Could’ve been so right,” I’ve opened my arms to what is yet to come.

Of course I hope that as my son and I move on to what is out there waiting for us, we will always be friends and he will always have a special place in his heart for me.

And maybe a little heart tattoo somewhere with “Mom” in it and my ringtone set to Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration.”

#IfYouLoveSomethingSetItFree  #80’sGirlForever   #EmptyNesting


  1. Jan says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. Remembering letting go and now letting go again when your granddaughter goes off to college again. Makes me want to sing the theme song from lion king❤️

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Everyone forgets how hard it is too for the grandparents, Jan! We had the “Last Supper” before Whitney left with all the grandparents so they could also say goodbye. We made up Grandparents Weekend last year so they could go to Boise and see Logan and his new life. We’ll have to do it again for WHitney at Santa Barbara! Hang in there, Jan!

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