Amy, I can totally empathize with your anxiety about your son "leaving the nest" so to speak because prior to my divorce from my 4 children's father, I'd never spent any considerable amount of time away from them. I was a mommy to 4 little ones and identified as such, even to the point of calling myself mom, in lieu of my own name, at times. After Steve and I moved in together and my ex husband, Carlos found his own place, it became time to discuss custody arrangements instead of the normal Saturday visitation, we'd gotten accustomed to. We mutually agreed that we'd split the time they spent with us in half, but making sure that neither one of us were away from them for terribly long amounts of time. The arrangement wound up being two weeks with me and Steve, and 2 weeks with dad.
Now, Amy, before the first time to let them go actually came, I was a wreck with sooo many different emotions and thoughts/worries going through my mind. I played out so many worst case scenarios.... in my mind one of those was. ."what if they like being with dad better than me and don't want to come home? " then I actually felt a bit excited like. .."hmmm, 2 weeks, no kids, no cartoons, no whining, playing taxi driver for 4 kids. .woohoo! So the evening arrived and their father came to pick them up, I kissed then all goodbye and hugged them like I was never seeing them again. After the car left the driveway, I burst into tears, feeling lost, and mostly guilty because in my mind they'd never have to live in two different places if not for me breaking up their family. Yes, that's how my mind worked. I've since worked out much of my "guilt issues" in my therapy. After a few days, and of course those first few times they went to dad's house, talking on the phone every single night, it got easier. Turned out it wasn't only hard for me, but I hadn't even really considered how difficult it was for them as well. It took over a year for us all to fall into a good routine. A year of some great things and some really tough things too. For a few months, they were really acting out, even had a few minor brushes with the police at 11 and 14 years old! Sounds awful, but it's really not. I have a very long winded point, I swear.
It's this: when they first were away from me for long periods of time, I felt alone, lost, and unneeded! You'd have thought that I'd have been happy they liked being at their fathers house, but instead it made me feel like they somehow didn't love me as much. They also had anxieties, they didn't want to disappoint me or upset me or their dad by telling me oror him how tough it was for them to go back and forth between two homes with 2 different sets of rules and expectations, 2 different schedules, routines, etc etc. So they kept those things inside, and as a result acted out, slipped in school for a while. . Etc. Buuuut, note that it's been a few years, and we've all had time to adjust, things are going so much more smoothly, as smoothly as can be in a house full of four hormonal teenagers, lol! Like you, I not only love my kids, I really like them. Each of their personalities is so unique and awesome. I see a bit of myself in all of them, and a WHOLE LOT OF myself in my son Alex. He and I just click... we have the same dry and at times dark and inappropriate sense of humor. We laugh and cry at the same things. We have so many of the same insecurities, and often know exactly what the other is thinking or feeling without saying.
More than that, my children are the type of people who I'd be friends with if they were not my kids and were adults, if that makes sense? It does to me anyway, lol!
The time apart, which seemed so terrible at first, I now see, has actually made me appreciate my kids so much more than I did before. When 4 kids, who are very close in age are constantly under foot, it's easy to get frustrated with them, yell, and feel completely overwhelmed. The same is true for them. I have an intense personality, I'm stubborn, loud, bossy, and like to get my own way.my moods have very high highs and very low lows, and it is just as exhausting to live with me like this, as it is to be me, like this! They needed a break from me as badly as I said I needed one from them! So they also appreciate the time they spend with me more. The first day back from dad's they're all competing to talk to me, talking over one another, catching up with me about their last two weeks. .. it's very nice actually. Instead of yessing them to death like I've done in the past when they were all chattering, I'm actually engaged and listening to them. In not constantly calling them every night checking up on them anymore, but once in a while, they call me just to chat. (Aka, they miss me) lol!
It may seem horrible, especially at first, but in our case, it brought us closer together and helped us to appreciate and love each other even more.
I know that might not be much comfort to you now, and I know I'll be a wreck when the first of mine goes out on his own/of to college or service, etc, but I'd like to think that this has helped prepare me, and them for that not so distant future.
I hope I've made some sense here.