Dear grown-up son who didn’t come home last night,

I know you are probably ok because this is not the first time you do this. In fact, since you finished school a few months ago and make the decision not to go to university, you took a big step toward claiming your independence.

I support this, because I remember.

Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine, but I was once 20 years old. And believe it or not, it’s not that long ago. Photos were not in black and white, we were not using a well to get drinking water, and yes, women did have the right to vote. Life “back then” was not much different than it is now.

How my kids imagine my youth
How my kids imagine my youth

So I know what it’s like when you are finally “free”. Free of the daily ritual of waking up early, dragging yourself to school, studying, doing homework, doing chores to keep your parents’ home clean and eating the boring healthy meals your parents make, at the ungodly hours they choose to serve them.

I actually remember that I had less stress in those first months of freedom than I had felt during my adolescence.

So I know you are almost certainly not lying bleeding in a gutter downtown, or locked up in a jail cell after getting innocently caught up in a drug deal gone wrong, or asleep on the train halfway through Italy because you forgot to wake up before your stop.

But I want you to consider something.

Consider the lego game you built, piece by piece, when you were 8 years old. How many hours you spent creating it, fixing it, correcting it, getting it just right. Consider the project you completed in high school that took you months of preparation, research, writing and revising. Consider that time you saved your money for weeks and walked to the store to buy those mini cupcakes for the girl you liked.

Then consider someone takes these things and casually tosses them aside, unthinking, telling you it’s none of your business what happens.

I know you are not lego. But in a way, I have built you. Piece by piece. I held you for hours and paced back and forth and back and forth with you asleep on my chest in the baby carrier, in my small dorm room while I studied for my exams. One false move or sudden noise and you would wake up and the study plan was finished.

I changed my plans for you. I didn’t go out with the girls that night when the babysitter cancelled, I called in sick for work when you threw up on me in the morning before school, I put my book down when you asked me for help with your homework, I turned the tv off and brought you a glass of water in bed when you called out that you were thirsty and wanted to talk.
I could have lived on sandwiches and fast food, I was pretty young then too. But instead I went to the grocery store and bought vegetables that I knew you would hate and found2015-09-27 15.50.36 recipes that you could tolerate and made balanced meals and convinced you to eat them, when I would much rather have just had kraft dinner and ice cream. I said no to cartoons when I was dying of fatigue after working the night shift and would have loved to lie down and ignore the world, and I took you outside to play on your new bike instead. We went shopping and we walked by the store with the women’s fashions that I craved, and walked into the hobby shop so I could buy you pokemon cards. I took you to London and instead of going to the Mamma Mia show I got tickets to the Lion King.

I thought about your brain a lot: I read books to you, and evaluated tv shows and movies before you watched them. I took you on trips so you would see the world and we ate a lot of pizza in Italy.
Basically, I feel I have put all my heart and soul into “building” you – even though I know I didn’t create the building blocks, I put them together, I protected them, I nurtured them, I allowed them to grow in a safe and happy environment. And all this at great sacrifice to myself.

And I know it was the right thing to do, so I don’t regret any of it.

But I do feel resentful. Because now some guy has shown up and stolen all this away from me. Everything I have known for the past 20 years has been swept away, out of my control. And the problem is, you are that guy. You are the guy who has taken my son away from me. So I resent you. And apparently you resent me for trying to hold on to you. So we’re both in a tug of war to control you, and of course I know that you have more rights over you than I have, but I still don’t trust you because you haven’t had the years of experience taking care of you that I have. In fact sometimes you even have not been very nice to you. Your track record is sketchy, admit it. Remember when you said you didn’t want to wear a raincoat or boots even though it was pouring out? Or gloves in the -20 degree winter? Remember when you secretly ate almost all your halloween candy and had a really sore stomach? Remember that time you didn’t do your homework? You really want to put your life in that guy’s hands?

So, basically, I am trying to make sense of it, and I want you to be independent, but I’m struggling with trying to figure out how to act. It feels like walking on glass sometimes, because I know at any moment I might accidentally slip into mom-mode and do or say the wrong thing. Like, I might ask how the job hunt is going. Or what you did last night. Or what you ate. I’m generally very interested in knowing what you ate. I sometimes surreptitiously glance at your waist and try to see if you have lost weight.

I know, on a deep, instinctive level, that you want me to let go completely and allow you to figure it all out. But here is what I am worried will happen if I do:
-you will get very hungry
-you will be outside in the freezing cold without warm clothes
-you will be hurt by dangerous people
-you will fall prey to a cult
-you will take drugs or drink too much to numb the fact that you are cold, hungry etc, or just because you think it will be fun
-you will go swimming in the lake and drown
-you will be kidnapped
-you will catch a cold which will turn into bronchitis then pneumonia and you will die
-you will have symptoms of a serious illness that you will ignore and you will die
-you will play video games for hours and forget to eat like that guy in China and then you will die
– you will spend the next year or two aimlessly working odd jobs or wandering around penniless and when you finally decide to go to university it will be too late because you will have a girlfriend or wife and maybe a couple kids by then so you will be stuck in a dead end job.
-you will not have a girlfriend or wife or couple of kids because you will just keep wandering around penniless

and mostly:

-you will turn 50 someday and resent the fact that your mom didn’t force you to eat properly and go to university when you were 20.

So, when you wake up this morning, or afternoon more likely, and you remember how much fun you had last night and consider your options for today, please take a moment to send me a brief message so I know you are at least alive. It tends to put a damper on my day when I have doubts about that.


Your mom who woke up at 4:30 and checked your empty room, the front door, her phone and stood looking out the window for 15 minutes.


1 thought on “Dear grown-up son who didn’t come home last night,”

  1. Hang in there Nic! I know EXACTLY how you feel………. He will turn out just fine, in fact, just like my sweet little girl did……….. Dad


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