My oldest son moved out last week. He’s 23 – it’s been time for him to venture forth and spread his wings for quite a while, but he was wisely saving money and waiting for his earning capacity to improve.
At last everything aligned just right and he has moved about a 30 minute drive away to a room in a cute little duplex in the shabby chic part of town, closer to the metropolis area than we are. It’s everything a first apartment should be – trendy, ungentrified, cheap, small, downtown and, most importantly, not connected to anyone from his childhood.
Until this time he has been living at home with the family, and from his mid-teens up, has not been very happy about it. Most of the time he shared a room with his little brother, until his little brother came down with diabetes right around the time he was working graveyard, and he was worried about waking up the younger boy, so he moved into the room in the center of the house.
This is a strange, remodel-gone-wrong kind of room. It’s very small, has paneled walls and an odd closet that has a gap around the top that leads into the attic. It has no exterior wall, so there are no windows. We had a skylight put in when we got a new roof a few years ago, but realized too late that this meant there was no way to close the curtains at night. There are two doors – one opening into the hallway to the bedrooms, and the other opening directly to the kitchen. This makes it very tempting for family members to use the room as a shortcut from the kitchen to their bedrooms. My son was not happy about this either.
The biggest downfall of this room, he sound found out, is that as it is in the center, you can hear every last conversation happening in the house. Every sneeze. Every argument. Every joking foray into absurdity (we do a lot of those around here). Not to mention every last piano lesson.
And so the whole time he has been living in this room, I felt like I had lost my boy. He became a grumpy, snarling troll, sticking his head out of the room only to complain about his sister’s piano playing or to interject his criticism into conversations we were having in the kitchen. We all began to tiptoe around the room, afraid to speak too loudly near the doors lest he not approve of our conversations, and knocking, only when absolutely necessary, with great temerity when we had to open one of his doors.
He even swore at one of my piano students, who was wandering around the house during his brother’s lesson and decided to open a closed door and see what was behind it.
Come to think of it, that wasn’t all bad. That child needed to learn some boundaries.
At any rate, as soon as my son knew he was moving out, he started to change. The troll began to disappear and the boy I remembered started to come back, only wiser and more mature. During his last few weeks at home, we had some really good conversations. Challenging, because he sniffs out sacred cows like a bloodhound and rattles fences whenever he encounters them, but good.
I mentioned to him that I had gone in his room one day when he was out of town for a few days, and sat in his chair doing some work, and that it was my new happy place because it was so peaceful. Even though the family knew he was out of town and that it was me behind the closed door, they still knocked very timidly and refused to come in even when I answered.
He smiled and said, “It took me a long time to train them like that. I had to snarl at everyone to teach them to be afraid of going in my room. I give it a week after I move out before they start using it as a hallway again.”
It was at this point that I realized the Troll In The Middle Room was an act. I had never actually lost my son. He had been there the whole time. He just didn’t dare let anyone know that he was still the same sweet boy who loved babies and went all mushy at the sight of a puppy. He put on his long-haired, tatted, hardcore bass player persona like a jacket in order to create some distance from the rest of his noisy, chaotic and somewhat nerdy family. He created a buffer of trepidation to ensure himself some personal space.
And it worked.
So now that he has moved out, sure, I’ve lost his physical presence in my daily life, but I feel like at the same time I’ve actually gotten him back.
Also, he has this cool artsy place in the trendy part of town, and I can go visit. #CoolMom #CoolByAssociation #ICanDream #YesIKnowThisIsTheWrongPlaceForHashtags