How can time move so quickly, snubbing my every effort to slow it down and make precious days last a little longer?
As my son sleeps the morning hours away, I’ve been decorating for his birthday, hanging photos of the smiles through the years since his birth, eighteen years ago today.
It doesn’t seem possible that so much time has flown past since he came into the world and I first held his wailing little body in my arms. This hit me hardest as I looked today at his evolution, frozen in snapshots: his first birthday when fingers cautiously poked at the soft, creamy icing on a cake I proudly baked; family vacations when he actually wanted to be with me and sweet hugs came spontaneously; becoming a big brother; playing hockey, soccer, lacrosse, surfing, scuba diving. And the last photo of all, this summer, an earring clad young man who walks to the beat of his own drummer, is stingier with his hugs , who seems to make sport of testing boundaries, and absolutely, positively knows more than his dad and I do.
The celebratory photos that hang in our kitchen next to a happy birthday balloon make it undeniable that, for better or for worse, my “baby” will be gone soon, but they bring other feelings, too. I realize more than ever that I must change along with him. I want to mother him in the way that used to work well at a time when he wanted my advice and suggestions. But I know that’s not the way of the teen. I know on this eighteenth birthday I have to take a few more steps in transitioning from a boss to a coach. It’s a difficult balance to strike in managing a teen’s accountability and his freedom, in imposing rules and allowing enough rope for him to learn for himself. It’s tough to trust a person whose brain is not yet fully developed.
All of this was easier when he was little. I knew how to do that kind of parenting. But this stage of growing up befuddles me and I often feel like I’m in a pitch black tunnel, groping my way along the walls, wanting to see the light of maturity and responsibility and sensibility. That’s especially true when my sweet little boy is overshadowed by a young man with attitude who thinks rules and sweet talk are meant for other people. Those are the days when letting him go seems like it would be a welcome relief. But then days like today come when I remember who he really is at his core, when I see his heart shine bright, when he lingers over the hanging photos and he remembers who he really is, too, and then he hugs me and says, “Thanks, Mom.” These are the times I want to hold tight.
When my babies were born, I figured they would do the growing. But on this, the day my son becomes old enough to vote and register for the military, the day he is legally old enough to marry, get sued, and sign a binding contract, I am keenly aware that I, too, must grow in my parenting,marking my own victories and mistakes, just as my birthday boy marks his.
Happy 18th Christian! I love you infinitely.