This August will mark a major milestone event; our youngest son will be going off to university and moving into residence life. It will be almost exactly one month shy of the twenty-fourth anniversary of the day that I became a mother.
In other words it means that I will have had a child living with me for twenty-four consecutive years, less about forty days. And then I won’t anymore.
This is obviously a very transitional time for me, and the many other parents in my current situation. It is fresh on my mind because first he’ll be graduating from high school this coming weekend.
Last week was the Capping Ceremony at our school. It seems it’s a lesser known ceremony or tradition where each graduating student asks a family member, friend or other; as in a coach, teacher or similar, to be their ‘Capper’ – the person who will meet them onstage in the gymnasium and ceremoniously place their mortarboard on their head. Then they pose for a photo, next returning to their seats.
It was a great ceremony and went off without a hitch. He had his brother Cap him. We thoroughly enjoyed watching our boys participate in this together.
Next, this weekend will be the actual graduation ceremony, you know the one where each graduate will cross the outdoor stage getting their diploma from the Principal, shaking hands. The usual speeches from the Valedictorian and (co) Salutatorians, as well as the Principal and possibly the Superintendent. That timeless tradition of tossing the mortarboards, in tandem, up in the air. It’s pretty much the culmination, the climax, the BIG day!
And I’m excited, don’t get me wrong. It’s an accomplishment; a completion of a thirteen year commitment to hard work, learning and growing into the young person each graduate has become. I’m tremendously proud of my son. His father and I, his brother, his grandparents, and all his aunts and uncles are all proud and excited for him.
But I think I’m…I’m about to start a midlife crisis? Maybe I already have…
All these years have had us heading in this direction, of course. Since the first day we send our child off to Kindergarten we parents know that it goes on for a finite amount of time. There are a set number of years that they will attend school before finishing their courses, and that is a sure thing.
So I cannot say that I am in any way shocked or surprised, except that I can’t help but feeling a little astonished that this day has actually arrived. Am I alone here? I sincerely doubt it.
I’ve been through this before, so naturally a few friends with younger children have commented that surely it is easier for me this time around having done so before, even if it was six years ago. I think that I would have thought so, too.
But no, I am acutely aware that many of my roles in this household are never going to be the same. Well possibly, for brief periods, when he returns home to visit; for breaks and especially over a summer, or two.
Still it’s not the same. Different. Changed.
Life as we know it, take that however you will, will be altered.
I’m not suggesting it’s good, I’m not warning that it’s bad. What I am doing is feeling it for the first time. Up to now I’ve only been imagining it. I’ve only been thinking about it and what it will be like.
I’m speaking from the mom perspective, because well, that’s all I know. I absolutely don’t want to slight any dads out there though.
Do you know that mom who go-go-goes non-stop? She is always taking on a million things; volunteers, creates, bakes, decorates, carpools, and never seems to tire, or burn out…well, that’s not me. I know that she probably doesn’t actually exist the way I’ve described, but truthfully I fear she might…since like I said, that’s not me.
Sure I have done all of those things for both my kids; just mostly on different days, if not different years. And I’ve still managed to bite off more than I could handle, on several occasions (not to mention the ones that I’ve blocked out, predominantly because I can no longer remember them, thankfully, gratefully, and blissfully).
I just hope my boys look back over the years when I mothered them as school children essentially in a positive way. An episode of ABC’s The Middle that I’d dvr’d in May was playing on my television last week, and the mother asked the kids what they plan to do differently when they are parents?
First the daughter said she’d be more organized. I admit that I started questioning just how badly organized I’ve been over the years. Did I send my kids to school unprepared for the day? Well, at least once, I’m fairly confident yes.
Did I have to drop a filled lunchbox off a few hours into their day because I’d run out of lunchmeat, bread, or fruit? Affirmative. However I’m proud to say I don’t remember them missing a class trip because of a lack of permission slip. Sheepishly, I do know we came close a time or two…maybe three.
The two sons piled on some more of her perceived shortcomings, ouch! She’s “stubborn and refuses to listen to reason”, as well as she “kind of appeases them with television” and “sometimes you make us feel like anytime we ask you to do something for us it’s a chore for you”. The little one added that she’s “not very organized”…she told him that yeah, that one was already covered. We laugh because it’s so much amassed and shoveled right onto their poor, well-intentioned mom…but really I’m sure I’m guilty of much the same over 18 school years (the two kids combined).
We hopefully can all try to find a little humor in our mistakes, you know, while we’re learning from them. This parenting gig did not exactly come with a manual. Sure there are many “manuals” out there we can consult, but we are really just trying to do the best we can.
Did I mention parenting involves a lot of sighing? Well it does.
When I look back over the years I’m amazed and awed at all we’ve gone through. Those first dozen or so years are each their own growth period. Each one brings new progress as a child comes into their own personality.
It is so enjoyable to witness this, despite how much energy we put into worrying we are doing it completely wrong. Then once they get to a place like their eighteenth birthday or their high school graduation we look back equal parts a little bit amused, a little bit baffled, a little bit sentimental and a little bit over-the-moon.
Okay, what I meant to say is a lot, not a little bit!
After all, raising a child is all things: every emotion, every feeling, every experience you can imagine. It’s usually a pretty wild ride, all things considered.
But it just takes one little memory, just one little glimpse into the person they are growing into, way back early on, that will forever sustain a parent’s happiness to some degree. Of course thankfully there’s usually many of those moments that we’d like frozen in time.
For me, this is one of my all-time favorites:
Our youngest, around age three or four, comes into my bedroom one evening just before his bedtime. I’m sitting on my bed looking at some photos from just before he was born. The page turns to a photo of a pregnant me, his dad and his big brother. He exclaims that it is us, but where is he? I tell him he’s there, too. He looks closer, then up at me quizzically. He is not seeing him, so he challenges me, “Where am I?”
I say to him, simply, “You’re in my tummy.”
His eyes grow to twice their regular size and he seems horrified as he inquires shakily, “You…ate…me?”
Not expecting his mind to go there I can’t help but burst out laughing with surprise. He does not find anything funny, but I hug him to me chuckling anyway, and tell him, no I definitely did not eat him.
I don’t remember exactly what else I told him that night, but this much of that memory I will never, ever forget.
Love, love, love the ride!
What’s next? No one ever knows for sure. Who will I be? Me.
I’m going to try to rein in my fears and face it head on, because I’m hoping it’s as interesting as this part has been.
And in my opinion, that’s really saying something…
Raina K Morton June 2 2015