My son is 18. What has grabbed my heart most about this is watching him grapple with the beginning of his adulthood. He is a deep thinker and so has tenderly stepped into the role with a thoughtful mind, holding onto the last of childhood days as if he was about to be physically taken from one journey to the next. He wants to build a fort, watch silly Saturday morning telly shows and eat pizza for every meal. He wants to literally touch everything that makes him feel like a child knowing that it’s now a memory rather than his reality. On the eve of his birthday he commented, “When you’re a kid and do something stupid, like jump off a high roof or skateboard down a dangerously steep hill, you’re just a kid doing something silly. But when you’re an adult and you do the same thing, you’re just an idiot.” True is true.
As a mother, I can feel his cycle from birth to adulthood wrapped up in this birthday; it gives me chills and has made me weep. I cry not for anything lost, or found, but for a deep understanding of all that I have tried to instill in what is now this young adult in front of me. He stands at the precipice of so much and yet still stumbles; he sees how far the road is stretched out with wonderment and I see the curves, the hazards as well as the excitement. It is most definitely a letting go that quietly happens as mother bird acknowledges the strength of her baby bird now able and willing to fly.
But there’s flashbacks of drool and skinned knees; of first steps and first words and first songs sung; bursting grins from victories and the red eyes of defeat; of all that connects us. The cycle of 18 years is a rainbow arc of so many colorful moments of his growth, awareness and self expression. At nearly 6’1, he embodies all those years on his shoulders and my job must now evolve into spectator as well. It’s not that I don’t want him to grow up, I’m just finding the delicate balance between being the harvester and guide to an observer very difficult to judge. When am I meant to butt in??
I have been micro managing his life for so long because he’s a boy who’s needed it and wanted me to do it. And, in my defense, the stakes always felt too high to back away. But somewhere in me I know that he must take charge and figure out how to fire up those neuro-receptors himself and learn how to organize without me. Of course I know that. He will rise and fall because of his choices; cause and effect is the best learning tool there is at this point. But even knowing this, I still find it so uncomfortable to stand back and watch where the chips fall; like I’m not doing my job properly.
There was no manual handed out to us at the hospital when we walked out 18 years ago with our bundle of pure joy in our arms; just the bundle. We drove ridiculously slowly to our home, holding our breath over every bump in the road, praying we weren’t going to hurt him. We honestly had no idea what we were doing. And now, here we are at the end of this first major cycle of time with so much knowledge that has been learned, absorbed, experienced, since. We gave our best, no regrets; our job isn’t over but there is a noticeable shift and now it is his turn, his time, to really learn how to live.