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Relationships - August 2018

He's leaving home.


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com 
for her to respond in the column.



He's leaving home

I found one of your articles and it is so close to what is happening in my family. My18 year old son will be leaving to the marines very soon. We've had a wonderful relationship so far and can talk about anything and everything. 
A month ago he found a girlfriend the same age and has been staying with her for the last 3 weeks. We haven't seen him, he doesn't call us or even his 13 year old brother he's so close to. 
My heart is breaking. I can’t think, sleep, or do anything else. Even her parents have warned him to run while there was still time. He did very well at school and his girlfriend was home schooled. She is going to summer school, loves to party and isn't academic. My son helps her with her studies.

To be honest I really don’t care about her in his life, but what bothers me is that I feel she is very selfish. She should let him stay with us, at least 1 week before he leaves, to be with us all. He's supposed to train two weeks before deployment for boot camp and has done none of it. It's as though he's become another person. I’m suffering so much. 

I know I have to let go and I was ready to do that knowing that he was going to serve his country, but not losing him to a person who is absolutely not good for him. Even her family tells him that when he leaves their relationship will end. 
I’m just scared that he makes a mistake, like getting her pregnant and then his life is over and every plan he had of a Military career is over.  
I don’t know what to do, what to think. I’m a very strong person and have gone through many hardships in my life. I was raised by my grandparents so I always promised myself that I was going to be the perfect mom. I think I have accomplished that. Now I’m falling apart. 

This must be one of the toughest trials I have endured. His father and I have each talked to him. He is really close to me so I figured that he would want to spend time with me before he leaves. But that has not been the case. My health isn't good and all the stress is not helpful. I’m trying to be as calm as I possibly can, but it has become so very hard.


So your first-born son has left home. You are feeling bereft and sad, and understandably hurt by his failure to spend his last days before National Service with his family.
It's perhaps unfortunate timing that he's found his first serious girlfriend just before he leaves. It's all too easy to forget that teenagers have an entirely different take on the world that spreads out before them. Maybe he is making the decision to stay with her?

While we parents are watchful and perhaps proud that our child has reach the cusp of adulthood safely, well-prepared for all that might follow thanks to the love and good parenting we have offered, the teenager is not looking back, but forward. He sees all the chances and feels all the sensations that are so new and powerful. That these new sensations flood in at a time when the teen has no experience in handling and moderating them is par for the course. They hurl themselves headlong into one experience after another. Some are good, natural and healthy and others teeter on the edge of danger.

Your son, so far, appears to be acting upon the healthier ones but with that risk which so concerns you lurking in the background. All of which is normal.

"It’s as though he's become another person" you say.  A teenager who has just discovered sex is oblivious of all other things. The sensation is overpowering. His hormones are at peak production and override responsibility, concern for parental wellbeing, brotherly love and family duties.

That is not to say all those things are gone, they are subsumed by more powerful new sensations and feelings. They will return once he develops more control. At present his hormones are controlling him! He is in transition from child to adult. It is difficult, exciting, puzzling, sometimes scary - and necessary. He has a huge wake-up coming in boot camp and then he will rush forward in his adult world, growing and changing at an amazing rate. When he comes home to you…and he will, eventually, he will be part child of your memory and all young man of the present - who you raised with all the love and care you could find.
Feel proud.

While you sound as though you have little respect for his girlfriend she is a vital stepping-stone for him, whatever happens. I'm sure that in all that devoted upbringing you'll have ensured he has as much information about safe sex and personal hygiene as you could offer so you have little to worry about. Of course accidents do happen. His life will not be over if what you fear, a pregnancy, happens. His life will take a very different direction but all is not lost. All along life's path we have choices. He will make his, sometimes he'll get them right and others he'll regret. But that is how things are for us. It is how we learn to be the person we are. That learning doesn't stop either, you are learning by living through this difficult time - and developing further wisdom. That learning is much less to do with parental guidance once you leave the childhood home. Your son's taking all of that, so selflessly given, and using it as his touchstone. Over it he will place all kinds of new things and grow well because he can do that - his foundation is strong.

I have concentrated on your son because I feel it might help you understand that his behaviour is unlikely to be due to his girlfriend being a 'bad influence' or on him being controlled by her. He has a mind of his own…albeit a little preoccupied at present.
They are both just 18 years old. How much wisdom and experience is stored in such a young brain? A little, sure, but not as much as there will be later on, when they have been allowed to make their own mistakes.

Be kind. Of course you are sad and mourning the end of his boyhood, when family was all and mother's love was all. Now he has fledged and is flapping his young wings. Let him go with love and be ready to welcome him back as a new man in your family. Just stay in touch with him but be ready to handle few replies at times - he'll get pretty exhausted in boot camp! Make sure you don't exhaust yourself by worrying more than is necessary over this.

He won't forget you or home. And he'll carry that love with him wherever he goes.



You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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