A next-door neighbor recounted for me one time the separation anxiety Mom suffered after she sent her little boy away to school for the first time.
“We just talked for the longest time,” the neighbor said of a conversation with Mom at the clothesline long ago. “She said she just felt so lost. She didn’t know what to do with herself.”
It was touching. I was her only child, and I guess the house seemed so big and lonely without me.
Oh, did I neglect to mention I was 17 at the time and Mom had just seen me off to college?
Have you been noticing the school separation anxiety around here lately? Students in stores are preparing for a new school year by excitedly snapping up school supplies.
Meanwhile, their poor parents are shelling out big bucks and having their stomachs silently churn at the thought of the looming inevitability.
The range in ages among those who experience school separation anxiety can be quite wide.
During the past school year I followed with some nostalgia the Internet posts of a cousin over in Jonesville who had just seen her firstborn off to school Down East, as did Mom that time long ago.
“She’s gone. Oh, I have to learn how to face it,” my cousin wrote last August.
Last October: “Now Emma’s home, so mama hen has all her baby chicks in the nest, and she’s very happy.”
“It’s been 38 days. Seems longer than that. Gonna see my girl today!” she said in March.
I couldn’t help but smile. After my first few weeks away I called up Mom on a Saturday morning, and she whimpered over the phone: “When are you coming home? You act like you don’t want to come home.”
Fast forward two years later. I called and told Mom I was thinking of coming up for a weekend. “Oh. Well, if you want to you can,” she said. I’d say she’d cut the cord.
So let’s see how my cousin’s posts run over the next couple of years.
Separation anxiety, I have noticed, is particularly common to motherhood and transcends species.
Years ago, after my Dalmatian had her first litter in the wee hours one morning, by the end of the day I had begun to grow concerned.
After I got home from work I checked on her. She and the pups were all there still. Everyone was well.
So I held the basement door open for the momma dog to go outside to use the bathroom. She wouldn’t budge. She would not leave those pups. Ditto at bedtime. I let it go for that evening.
The next morning I tried again. Again she wouldn’t go. She stared at me with her one brown eye and one, sad blue eye as if she didn’t know what to do. I knew she was about to bust.
“C’mon,” I encouraged her as I continued to hold the door open.
She looked at her litter, looked at me and looked at the litter again.
After some additional encouragement she finally jumped up, ran up the steps, emptied her bladder at the very edge of the grass beside the steps and ran right back down to those pups.
Fast forward a week, maybe a week and a half. I opened the door for the momma dog to go out. And she did. But she did not want to come back in.
“C’mon,” I said, now in reverse. I was in a hurry because I had to get to work. She looked at me. She looked around at the pretty morning landscape and the bright rising sun. Plenty of space in which to run around and enjoy.
As I encouraged her again the momma dog looked at me and hung her head. She did not want to go back in. I think she’d had enough of those wiggling, crawling, sucking, biting pups.
I know you parents who are preparing to send your little darlings (a favorite phrase of high school teacher the late Veronica Pearson) off in the next few days don’t want to hear this, at least not just yet. But may I provide a bit of assurance that after a while the anxiety will pass.
And after a while you just might look around and start seeing the positives hidden within these gloomy days.
My money’s on the likelihood that you’ll come to secretly like it.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.