There are few bonds stronger than the love between mother and son. But what happens when the adoring little toddler edges closer and closer to those teenage years?

I firmly believe that I gave birth to one of my soulmates on January 17, 2008. Yes, you read that correctly. My son is one of my soulmates. From the moment he was placed on my chest, an all-consuming love rushed in and multiplied every day after that.

As soon as we shared the gender of our baby, people started telling me about the bond between mothers and their sons. But my heart was not prepared for this kind of love.

I was certainly not prepared for all the fun little boys are. Seeing the world through a little boy’s eyes is an epic adventure. It’s noisy (crash) and loud (boom), and stinky (farting competitions) and sticky (don’t ask!) – and filled with dinosaurs, hamsters and remote-controlled vehicles.

I loved the possessive infant and toddler years…

“My mama, no daddy, don’t kiss her!” This little guy’s love was so empowering and liberating. He really made me blossom into the best-ever version of me.

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I remember every: “Mama, I love you and I’m going to marry you”, followed by sweet, sticky, sweaty kisses, and days when my heart wanted to jump out of my chest with love and contentment.

And back then if you told me a time would come when that little boy would slowly, albeit gently, start disentangling himself from me, I would have dismissed you with contempt.

I missed all the early signs

His nickname he’s had since he was a baby, could only be used in the safety of our home. Not when my friends are around, please Mama.

Then I became just Ma. I was Mama for so many years, I think I just continued hearing the second ‘ma’ even after it was dropped. It hit me this year that I somehow lost it.

He used to be my favourite partner in crime. As soon as I showed signs of leaving home, he would jump in the car at the drop of a hat, strap himself in and trust me to take him somewhere fun.

This boy who taught me to love without fear, has now made me face my biggest fear

Nowadays, the only time he’s in the car with me is when I Uber him somewhere or take him to school…

No more trips to the mall. He prefers online shopping and gets ridiculously excited when parcels are delivered.

He used to love our walks with our dogs. Sometime in January this year, he told me he still loves me, but is it okay if he doesn’t join me on the daily walk? Meep, and gulp!

This boy who taught me to love without fear, has now made me face my biggest fear. Having to let our connection manifest itself the way it is meant to be. Letting him be who and what he is meant to be. And trusting and waiting that he comes back to me at the other end of this new life phase he’s entering.

So, what does a Ma(ma) do when her soulmate child slowly starts breaking away from her?

She goes into self-care mode. Hard. Don’t get me wrong, I know him breaking away from me means I did a good job, but that doesn’t make it hurt less, friend.

I’ve had my fair share of breakups, but this one is the one that had the potential to sink me and send me bubbling to the bottom of the ocean of ‘parents with kids who have moved on’. I had visions of being left in an old age home with only the local primary school kids visiting at Easter and on Mother’s Day.

I realised I needed to step up my self-care routine, before I undid all my good work. I needed to let him be and not force myself on him.

So for solace, I turn to the baby and toddler pics and write a caption/memory for every pic in the digital albums. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, but mostly, I get all warm and fuzzy and transported to the moment the photo was taken.

Then there are my dogs. The parenting memes tell you that as soon as your child becomes a teen, you should get a dog so someone’s always happy to see you.

My dogs are not the brightest, but these fools are happy to see me every day, any time of the day. With them, there’s no “how long are we going to be” or “can we make it a short visit please, Ma”.

And to satisfy my need for extra human interaction, I joined a crochet class and a book club. The average age of women in these groups is 48, so most of them have been where I am now and are ever so kindly sharing hacks on how to survive this stage.

And my sweet new friends assure me the boys come out the other end of this phase loving you just as much as they did as little boys playing with dinosaurs, and you will be loved and depended on again.

Until then, all there is to do is tell my son, Thomas, to close the door gently behind him (no crash and boom this time, please) as he starts his uncoupling from me, and to assure him I will be right here where I’ve always been when he’s ready to connect with me again. Whether it’s five hours, five days, five months – or five years.