Lately, I feel submerged in thoughts of making every minute of parenting count. How I have to hang on to the days I have left (a finite amount!) with one child left at home.
We are nearing the end of our days with our teen son. He is a junior in high school and his time disappears between friends, sports, clubs, studying, friends, video games, friends, and the minutes flying past us as he goes from car to bedroom to refrigerator, back out to the car.
The days left with him really do feel like sand slipping through an hourglass. With our first two children, now gone to college, I always consoled myself with saying, “I’ll be OK. I’ve always got the baby.” But the baby is now 6 feet tall, and when I walk into his room so quietly at night, and see his feet hanging over the end of his bed I see how he has outgrown everything. And I don’t want to say it, but I sometimes feel it, he’s outgrown me, as well.
This journey we’ve had together has been one of me growing up alongside him. I’m older with this child, less hyper-focused on small details knowing it’s the overall experience that makes up a life shared together. But this is my last chance, my last place setting at this table of on-hands parenting, and so I wonder, Have I done it all as an art?
Have I taught and modeled the values? The layers of life? The modeling of a life lived for others as well as remembering self? Has he learned from me, has he understood what life will look like, when looking back?
I walk through my son’s room when he’s away, and it’s a mix of being bombarded with memories from the past along with a window open to the future. There are college recruitment pamphlets that sit on the same shelf as his once favored Rubik’s Cubes. Smells, sounds, images of days past and days to come, woven seamlessly together and I it’s hard to synch the time together as one and the same life.
My son has to leave, that’s life, but I want more time. I want to be certain that I taught and modeled all I wish for him to have, and to be. How did 17 years go by? Seventeen years, sometimes the thought of those days running together up to this point almost knock me to the floor. It’s impossible for any of us to know the impact we have on someone’s formation, whether because of us or in spite of us.
We do it all, because we are parent, caretaker, loving guardian, and there is little we would not do for this child of ours. But how do we know if they’ve learned from us, the way we hope they would?
We can’t, so we go through the days and in between grocery shopping and errands, we watch the hours melt away. We can’t imagine what we’ve done to be given such a gift. especially in those moments when we see the love and kindness they’ve picked up during our days together.
It had been a morning of me running on all cylinders, which is my mode of operation. I had forgotten to call my son’s school to let them know he had an orthodontist appointment and would be getting there late. Since I hadn’t called, he had been marked as truant and when he returned to classes, he was called to the office. I was in the middle of Target when I received a text from him, “You forgot to call school for me today.”
Oh dear lord above, this is not good. I called the school back, and explained my oversight. My son was allowed to return to classes, but he had missed more school than he had to.
I apologized to him, feeling awful. His response to me, a soft and simple, “It’s OK. Everyone makes mistakes.” There was no yelling or blaming, or anger. Just tender reassurance, understanding and forgiveness.
Later that day when I saw him, I thanked him for his kindness. “Mom, do you know how many mistakes I’ve made, and you just go on and fix it? Come on, that’s what you do for me.”
Yeah, I’ll tell you here how much my eyes welled up in that moment. My heart filled where I could feel it press against my sides. My son had been learning, he had been alongside me while I tried with intent to teach. It was the way I behaved toward him that was showing him his way in the world.
I will miss these days of having him with me. But for right now I have two more years to travel this life with him next to me; watching, listening, and learning together about love and who we are to each other.
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