Single Mum: Sav’s growing independence
Sav is separating from me. It feels both very bad, some days – and very good. He stays in his room more, stays out longer, stays on the phone, stays with friends. He’s turning into a very tall, mostly quiet, drily funny young man whom I feel at present that I don’t know very well. I suppose I shall never know him again the way I did when it was my job to shape him; and now it is my job not to shape him, and should never be again. I can feel a gap growing, his rightful independence, which I shouldn’t really cross now, except in times of his emotional emergency, and only then by invitation.
It is an odd time. He does not yet know how to choose what he wants nearly as thoroughly as he knows what he doesn’t want. And I am used to rushing in to suggest, direct and advise. He is learning to open himself up, whilst I must constrain myself.
This development includes the fact that Sav stays away from church mostly now. And I no longer expect him to come, although I wish he would. This is mostly selfish; I love the drive to church with him – it’s a long one, we live nine miles across the busy city to my pastorate – we see such wonderful things on the way.
Turnpike Lane, for example, seems to be the (literal) breeding ground for some of the oddest, most creatively strange dogs we have ever seen. Stamford Hill is alive with shawled, fur-hatted, white-stockinged Jewish dads rushing their little skull-capped sons to Sunday yeshiva. Clapton has bus-stops bursting with Caribbean ladies in their best hats, and African ladies in towering head-dresses, setting off for their churches. And as we arrive in Bethnal Green, stately Somali women are out with pushchairs and some startlingly pale Goths in striking retro-wear are emerging to go to the markets.
Driving there alone is not so fun. Turnpike dogs, though just as eccentric, need now to become a solitary enjoyment. Perhaps one can share things with oneself – or one can thank God for the amazing journey – but at present I still have the default position of wishing Sav was with me.
And at church, preaching, not to see Sav’s bright, listening face sometimes shocks me. We have been here several years now and we got into the habit of chatting over the sermon on the way home.
Sometimes I wonder whether separating from me will mean that he separates, for ever, from church. It bothers me a little; but not much. My mother, a preacher too, clung so very tightly to me through my teens, 20s and 30s that it was almost impossible for me during that time to attend any church without feeling that I was somehow back, claustrophobically, in narrow home territory. I wouldn’t wish that on him. I must not cling.
But I do hope that the “non-mummy” memories are strong enough to bring him back to some good church. And there were so many. Perhaps he’ll recall looking up at the kind faces of Muswell Hill members leaning down towards him with biscuits. Or how lovely it was to roll on the floor. Or yelling out good tunes. Or the first time he took Communion at six, feeling the particular belonging which it brought him. Or the dawning sense of our stories and Bible stories running together amongst the quirky, joyful, complex congregation at Bethnal Green.
Perhaps all these memories of kindnesses and melodies and prayers, and the endless wheeling of the church year, will aggregate into something needful to which he’ll want to return.
This article was published in the February 2013 edition of Reform.