As I send my second son off to college I look back longingly at all the days gone by. I will forever miss waking to the sound of their laughter every morning. Even their bickering. I will miss the shoes that never quite made it to the closet or the laundry that lay inches from the laundry basket. I will miss their sports gear spread from one end to the next and hearing myself say daily, “Pick the ball up out of the middle of the floor before someone trips and breaks their neck.”
I keep hearing all those cliches in my head that other parents used to say as a way to comfort, “it’s just a phase”, or to teach us something they couldn’t actually do themselves but perhaps we could, “enjoy every moment”. They used to drive me crazy, these silly cliches, but as a parent who is finishing up the “raising your kids” portion of parenting, they seem more poignant. They make more sense. They mean something real as I look back over the 18 years.
THE DAYS ARE LONG THE YEARS ARE SHORT they said. They are. Until they enter high school. Every tick of the clock is a reminder that they will soon be leaving. Suddenly the days and years are screaming by at breakneck speed with all the memories swirling around you like the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz and you are desperately reaching out to grab every memory and cling to it in hopes that somehow it will slow it all down just for a brief second. It doesn’t, of course, so you are left with a painful feeling I have dubbed sorjoy. Equal parts knife cutting sorrow of their impending departure and an all filling bubbling joy of pride at the beautiful person you’ve raised and they’ve become.
ENJOY EVERY MOMENT they said. I didn’t. Some of those moments sucked. The lack of sleep, the ER visits, the worry, the stress, the teacher conferences to remind you that they can’t sit still or they don’t try hard enough, the incessant sibling rivalry that every book promised, if I just parented better, I could make stop. Those books lie. So no, I didn’t enjoy every minute. I enjoyed the wonderful ones and look back on the awful moments like battle scars with a fondness only a mother could understand. Those scars strengthened our mother-son bond. We were one against the world as we figured out how to fix the problems, heal the wounds and overcome teachers who didn’t understand that some boys just don’t sit still. Everyone of those scars tells a story and I wear them like a badge of honor.
SLEEP WHEN THEY SLEEP they said. When they were babies I rarely slept. I was either staring in wonder at their beautiful faces or worrying, one eye open, one closed, waiting for any sound that meant I needed to go running to them. The middle years I slept. They were down the hall, they were mine to control in the safety of my environment, protected by my love. I slept. The teen years I slept even less than the first year I brought them home. If I wasn’t waiting up for them on the sofa I was awake at night worrying over something that, at the time I felt, might forever alter their path in life. Sometimes warranted, mostly not. I wish I could have found a way to sleep more over the years, but I don’t regret not having slept. Add it to my list of scars.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS they said. And how wonderful it is when boys are being boys. The best theater in the world and it’s free. A friend of mine and I were sitting watching a large group of teenage boys jostle and wrestle each other giggling and being rambunctious as boys often do. She said aloud, “That looks like trouble.” To me it looked like pure joy. Nothing could have been more wonderful than raising three boys who act like boys. Boys will be boys is a beautiful saying, it’s too bad some boys have ruined it. I hope I raised the kind of boys that will bring this saying back to the forefront and men and women will both be able to say, “boys will be boys” with a sense of pride, not disdain.
IT’S JUST A PHASE they said. People tell you this when you need a reprieve from whatever bad behavior phase your children have take on. Those phases are crap, no way around it, only through it. Truth is though, this whole getting to parent your kids thing? It’s all just a phase. An 18 year phase. I don’t want this phase to end. I want to start over. Redo this entire phase. Every single scarred moment. If only, I could just be that mom, bringing that boy home and starting out on our adventure of “this phase” together. I would redo every single moment. Even the scarring ones.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS they said. It shall and it has. Gone are those tiny little fingers that clung to me when they were scared or reached up to me to be picked up as they were too little to see the giant world from their vantage point. Now they tower over this world. A clear view of their path in front of them and all they want just waiting to be found. It is no longer my job to hold them up so they can see the world. My new job requires me to let go, trust in what I gave them, allow them to fly.
IF YOU LOVE SOMETHING SET IT FREE they said. I step aside, slowly releasing each finger of my grip so they can go begin their own journey. This is perhaps the biggest scar of all. Sorjoy.
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