So much about being a parent has changed as my kids have reached college age and beyond. They are independent with lives that happen mostly away from me. Much of what I know about their daily existence comes from what they tell me, a far cry from when their bedroom was in our home.
In some ways I have changed. I have tried to watch more and talk less. I have tried to take my fingerprints off of their lives. Yet some of the most wondrous parts of parenthood remain largely untouched.
I can stare at my sons forever.
I remember cradling these boys as babies and feeling like my eyes could never drink in enough of their gorgeous faces. I was learning to recognize a piece of my own heart.
They have adult faces now. Facial hair comes and goes and acne makes a less frequent appearance, but I still feel exactly the same. I notice a tiny mark from a chicken pox that I missed covering with calamine lotion. I know the single tooth that defied orthodonture. I see in their faces people who died long before they were born as every expression recalls my family or my husband’s. Not one inch of their faces is less captivating, less gorgeous, to me than that of the toddler who ran over and threw himself in my lap. Nothing has changed.
I thought we had forever.
Through the time they were babies and children, it seemed as though endless years lay before us. It wasn’t true then. It is not true now. But at every point, believing this fantasy has been the only way I can face the sound of our years rushing by.
I thought they were mine.
This too was never true. They were always their own selves. They were in my care and now they are not, but they were never mine. I believed this not because I wanted to control my boys but because I wanted to hold them close. Hope some place in their heart they will continue to let their mom live with this fiction.
[More about the painful reason parents ache when their kids grow older….. Knowing My Sons A Little Less.]
I can listen to my sons forever.
Their stories, fears, plans, even what they ate for dinner are as interesting today as at any time. When they walked in the door from kindergarten I wanted to hear every word about their day. I feel the same way about college.
My desire to nurture my kids remains undiminished.
Sure my teen and 20 something sons can find their own way in the world, but the joy I get from buying one of their favorite foods or helping them in small ways is unaltered. Parenthood is always a balance between nurturing and smothering and I still struggle to land on the right side. But we are all better off knowing that there is someone in the world whose joy it is to make us happy.
It makes me unreasonably happy to see them with their friends.
In nursery school I hoped they would make friends. One of my kids was excruciatingly shy when he was small and I worried every day that he would be alone or unhappy. He wasn’t, but still I worried. Now when I see them with their friends, loving caring people, my heart swells in the same way it did when they had their very first playdates.
I want them to sleep and eat well, though they surely don’t want to hear that from me.
The words, “Mom I can’t talk now, I am going to bed early. I really need to catch up on sleep.” still makes me ridiculously happy.
I learn from my kids everyday.
There was a time that watching them taught me so much about how children developed and grew. I gazed at them, fascinated, as they learned to walk or read or drive. As they have ventured out as adults studying and working, they have only taught me more about worlds I will never know.