My two-year-old graduated from high school last month.
Okay, I know. In the eyes of the world and according to his birth certificate, he’s seventeen. But I only have to close my eyes for a second and he’s two. In fact, it seems I’ve only blinked a couple of times and somehow two became seventeen.
It’s a bittersweet journey, this parenting thing.
I’ve always seen it as my job to raise him to be independent. Self-sufficient. Capable of spreading his wings to fly when the time comes.
Which means that I’m basically been training him all along not to need me around anymore.
By the time a baby takes his first precious steps, I think every mom feels a mixture of relief
and sadness. For those first few months, you are attached practically 24/7 to this creature who demands more of you than you ever thought possible to give. Walking gives them a measure of independence that means you are no longer obliged to carry them everywhere they go. Which can be quite freeing, but also a little scary. I got a lot of advice from my family and friends, especially one friend who used to be a Cultural Care Au Pair and looked after children for another family, I valued all of their advice and it made the whole thing a lot less scary. It made me realise it’s the beginning of a series of ribbon-cuttings.
The first day of school. The first time they get embarrassed if you hug them in public. The first day of middle school. The first time they don’t want you to tag along for an activity. The first time they don’t need your help with a school assignment. The first time you discover you’re no longer cool. The first day of high school. The first time they get behind the wheel. The first time they drive away in the car alone. The first time they go out with their friends alone.
Each of these milestones pricks the heart, swollen as it is with pride.
It’s a natural progression. You want them to succeed. You want them to grow. You want them to experience the world and all it has to offer.
But the flip side of that journey is that each step along the way takes them farther away from you.
I’m beyond proud of Dr. Smooth. I am in awe of his accomplishments thus far. I actually enjoy his company, which is a blessing based on some other horror stories of moms I know with teenage sons. I see so much potential in him, and I marvel at his sense of humor, his unique personality, his drive to succeed, and his ability to see the world around him through lenses that are both inclusive and realistic.
He is kind. He is funny. He is compassionate. He is smart. He is motivated. He is industrious. He is socially conscious. He is just. He is honest. Direct. Straightforward. Intuitive. Communicative.
He is a young man on the threshold of a future that is bright with broad horizons.
And yet, he is still the baby I nestled in my womb, the toddler I cradled and soothed, the young boy I nurtured and encouraged, the teenager I supervised and annoyed, the very essence of my heart.
I’m in a maelstrom of emotions as we turn the page for this next chapter. I couldn’t be more excited for him, but at the same time, my heart aches for just a few more hours…days…years.
I mean, it’s not like my job is over. I’m still his mom. Always will be. I’ll still be here to guide him. Listen to him. Counsel him. Rejoice with him and cry with him. Whatever is needed, he’ll always have.
But my role is changing. Already.
He’s handling the college paperwork on his own now. Managing the deadlines and filling out what’s necessary. Corresponding via email with them when he has a question.
He’s working almost full-time hours. Getting himself up for work while I sleep. Making his own lunch. Managing his own bank accounts. His own investments.
His schedule is his own. He’s home less often for dinner. A sign of things to come in the fall when he’ll be gone far more often than he’s here.
He’s doing well in these new ventures into independence. But I still feel a faint sense of panic in my mama heart. Have I taught everything I should have? Have I given him all the tools he needs? Have I equipped him to make the difficult decisions life will throw in his path? Have I instilled in him all the values I was supposed to impart? Have I been the mother I strived to be?
I asked him, as I was preparing to write this blog. You know, just to get a sense of how I’d done. If I’ve screwed up royally and need to request an extension to cram in more knowledge before he goes off to college, or if I’ve done okay and can sleep at night knowing he’s on his own.
Me: “What are the three most important life lessons you think I’ve taught you?”
Dr. Smooth: “I don’ t know.”
Me: “C’mon. Think about it. When you look back on your life so far, what are the most important lessons you think I’ve taught you?”
He thinks for a moment, and I wait anxiously in hope that he can come up with at least one.
Dr. Smooth: “To always think about how my actions will affect other people.”
My heart smiles. That’s a good one, right? That one was intentional on my part. It was one of my biggies on the goal list as a mom.
He’s silent. In thought. I’m nervous that it’s taking him so long to come up with a second one.
Dr. Smooth: “To always push the button on the trip odometer when my gas light comes on so I’ll know how many miles I have until empty.”
Okay. Well, that wasn’t one I had ranked high on my goal list, but that’s still important, right?
He made to leave the room and I stopped him.
Me: “That’s only two. Can’t you think of one more? C’mon. Didn’t I teach you anything else??”
He thinks for a moment and grins.
Dr. Smooth: “Oh yeah. You taught me to wipe from front to back, not back to front. Oh, wait. I think my dad taught me that.”
He walks away with a laugh. He’s humored me, and now he’s off to his room to pursue his own interests for the day.
I guess I just have to trust in the job I’ve done. And move forward to the next chapter. A college mom. No longer a toddler mom. Or soccer mom. Or baseball mom. Or tennis mom. Or a transportation to and from everywhere mom. Or a high school mom.
But still a mom. Dr. Smooth’s mom. My favorite role I’ve ever played.
So here we go. Turn the page.