A Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love

A mother’s love is an undisputed guarantee that travels the test of time but there are moments when it is tested to its limits and how we respond says a lot as to its value.

My eldest is close to completing his second year at university but his transformation from the day we dropped him off, a complete newbie to life away from home and now, makes me on occasion sad, tearful, regretful almost.

We fought so much about him having a year out after his A’levels.  He wanted a break from the pressure of studies.  Time to decompress, to stand back and reflect on the next stage of his life he said. Travel was mentioned too.  Most of his mates were doing just that, so why couldn’t he was the big question of the summer.  We were insistent, however, he continued and maximised his educational progress at that point and then maybe had a break at the end.

A consistent high performer in the class room at school and on the sports field he is a mere reflection of the boy he once was. Always too sociable for his own good, there are even more friends to add to the mix and stories that confirm he is having the best time of his life.  But beneath that is the son I love and adore battling I sense with finding his way as an adult and yet still trying to do the best by us.

I dismissed the subtle changes last year, turned a blind eye to the escapades of university inductions that made me scared and kept me awake at night.  Whisperings of drinking games widely reported in the media struck a chord, echoes of similar stories around the lunch table when he came home were I convinced myself just that – echoes and I reassured myself he was fine, invincible almost.  After all in my role as mother I had equipped him with all the necessary skills to make the right decisions to keep safe.

None of this of course was made any easier with my cancer diagnosis being thrown into the mix in his first term, just as he was going back to take his exams. At the time I was insistent that life for both my teens carried on as normal, but particularly for him being away from home so we tried to downplay it.  He needed to be calm and settled.  To get on with his life.  We couldn’t weaken.  He couldn’t see me or us scared or worried.  We had each other to lean on after all but he was alone.

Parenting is a journey of challenges and human nature teaches us to cope, to ride the rough with the smooth in whatever way necessary.  Our journey of late has been a bit bumpy but that doesn’t mean it is insurmountable, we just maybe need to change course.

Our son hates failure and works hard to deliver but now whilst he is thriving with his studies there is no real passion for his learning.  Equally his love of the sport which shaped his early teens and saw him reach a bowling speed of 80 mph that made those facing him quake, has diminished. Any mention by us is brushed aside and we are told to stop nagging.  It’s his life and we can’t control him or tell him what to do with it.  A familiar story no doubt for all of us parenting teens.

Self-doubt as a parent is normal but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.  I mourn the days of my seemingly perfect son and I question whether we made the right decision about him not taking a year out.  My husband says I beat myself up about the most ridiculous things but there it is again staring at me in the mirror – a mother’s love.  If we had allowed him to pause, to explore who he was and what he wanted free of the confines of education rather than just dictating our way would it be different? Would he feel better about himself? Do we even have a right to feel disappointed?

Ultimately there is no reason for us to.  He is on line for a first but then so are 25% of those in university education so it is no longer the place of the elite but the majority. It’s not just about the scores, however, as I have said before, university is a place to push boundaries and more importantly to grow as an individual but it is pressurised.  The lecture and tutorial timetable is intensive.  There are exams every six weeks.  There is no respite and that takes its toll eventually.

A mother’s role is to watch over her children, to nurture, set out the stepping stones of life, to guide and support but more importantly for me it is also about always ensuring they know there is a path home regardless of their age or dilemma.  Melodramatic to many maybe but an essential component of family life to me.   For me right now as a mother I just want the “whole” him back and turning our back is not the answer.

In a period when the mental health of our children has never been so prevalent the end result is we are considering applying for a year’s break in his studies. So our early rebuttal of his request for a break is now back firing.  This time, however, I am taking notice.  Really listening to what he is saying and not just hearing what I want to hear or convincing him otherwise.  I am putting his needs first.  I pride myself on always having done that but hands up I think I got it wrong this time.  We all make mistakes after all.

I don’t want a future of regrets but one of hope for my teens and sometimes the gut instinct the one that dictates a mother’s love is the one that takes control and right now I want him home.  I took my eye off the ball last year during my illness but I am back on track now.  My journey as a mother of teens is taking an alternative route and that’s fine.  We will handle it as we always do as a united front, supporting each other and there will be a different twist to our story as a family that may make us stronger.  At least let’s hope so.  In the meantime it just proves that parenting never ends and is always quite simply work in progress.




  1. May 9, 2019 / 1:31 pm

    Such an open honest post Jo, and I can feel your mother guilt and anguish so acutely coming through. It never stops does it, that guilt that we’re doing right by them. I’m sure your boy will do well wherever his journey takes him and sounds like you’re giving him the freedom and space to hopefully get his sparkle back. Really touched me when I read this post. Thank you for sharing, Susie x

    • Jo
      May 9, 2019 / 3:50 pm

      Oh thanks Susie. Sometimes those posts that you just knock out without thinking really speak from the heart and this one felt like that at the time. This section of our journey has been a real battle and I feel there will be a few more knocks on route but somehow I am hoping the end result will be worth the angst. Thanks for dropping by my love. x

  2. April 1, 2019 / 2:17 pm

    Oh, Jo, such a heartfelt post.The the minefields we step through as parents all the time! The impossible dilemmas that are par for the course: they want one thing, we the parents reserve the right to say no, and risk the enmity that follows our taking responsibility for another’s wellbeing. And those big moments in our children’s lives when we, as the carers in chief, are charged with helping them to make the best choices in terms of education and life, like going on to university straight or taking a year out first. We are damned if we force the issue, as it were, and steer them towards what we, in good faith, consider is best for them, and damned if we don’t, ie we let them decide, and even support a really bad decision we don’t believe in. We say, it’s their responsibility ultimately, blah, blah … which doesn’t sit easy either, of course. I hate when our kids don’t take responsibility for their school work and things like that, and find a way of blaming mom and dad when things aren’t going well. Ultimately it seems to me you and your husband did what you thought was right, and it maybe didn’t work out too well. But your son also is making wrong choices in terms of not knuckling down, socialising too well … I don’t know, I have no idea … but when is it down to him, not just his addled parents? Now, maybe, he will try something else, again with your loving support, and things will get maybe back on track… hopefully … but for god’s sake, you are doing your best for him!!!

    • Jo
      April 2, 2019 / 9:10 pm

      Responsibility moves to such a bigger level when they are elder teens moving into the adult years. One thing I have no doubts about Enda is his commitment to work and succeeding and he is without a doubt. But you can’t have it all and I think that is what is hard for them when they step out alone without our constant support, encouragement and of course nagging! I don’t know the cause or the answer right now to where he is but for me I just feel there is a component missing and feel that my duty or my mother’s love or guilt even – call it what you will says it is time to step in and find out. We will see and watch this space on the next stage.

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