So this is the blog I’ve been avoiding writing. The one where I tackle the biggest challenge we’ve all faced. The one about son #1. The one we left behind…
The question we were most often asked before we left England was: “how do you feel about leaving Fred?” And it’s a complex question, because the only way we as parents could process this one, was to firstly cling to the fact that Fred had already left us. His journey into adulthood and independence had already begun when he packed his bags for uni and flew the nest back in September.
That first term, Pete and I were totally lost. We were unprepared for letting our baby boy go. We mourned the end of a season in our parenting. But what got us through it was seeing Fred flourish in his new environment. He literally transformed before our eyes into a confident, grounded and focused young man, embracing change and opportunity as well as coping with the challenges. We were so proud. Our baby boy had found his wings.
So just a few weeks later, with our departure date looming, our answer to the question seemed logical: it’s fine, he’s left home, we’ll see him in the holidays. It’s a mantra I have to repeat daily, because despite the words being true, the feelings don’t quite match up.
We FaceTime most days. I look at his beautiful face and listen eagerly to his news. We talk about everything: friends, grades, life, money and of course, football! He assures me (and I believe him!) that he really doesn’t miss us that much- he’s having too much fun. And that’s what makes this possible, that and the fact that he’ll be here in 21 days and then again for 8 weeks over the summer.
But whilst I can see him on the screen and hear his voice, I can’t hug him. I miss his physical presence, and yes, I miss washing his clothes, I miss him eating everything within seconds of buying it, I miss him arguing with son #2. I just miss him.
A great comfort is that Fred has truly amazing grandparents who provide all the love, support and home comforts he needs. (Not to mention cash for when he’s running low!). And there’s not much that can’t be made better by Nanny Joan’s chocolate cake or Nanny Susie’s roast dinners!
We’re also working hard over here to ensure that Fred is as much a part of the Chicago adventure as we are. This is his home, he has a visa, he is still our dependent. But as parents, we always feel guilty for the things we did and the things we didn’t do. Perhaps I still need to understand that leaving behind isn’t the same as letting go. As parents, we have to let go… but it isn’t easy.
In years to come when we look back on this time, I wonder what we’ll say. Will Fred refer to it as the time we left him behind? I think that would break my heart. I hope he will see it as we do- an opportunity to grow as individuals and as a family, to broaden our horizons, step outside our comfort zone and experience change.
Whatever the outcome of our time here, one thing I know for sure is that we are, and always will be Team Gibbs – sometimes we have to let go, but no one ever gets left behind.