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Through a mother’s eyes, this is how they will always look to me. No matter how many years the calendar says they are, how tall they become, how adult they are to the rest of the world. When I look at them, I can see what the rest of the world sees, the handsome, smart, amazing young men they have become, but I also see these faces. These people who somewhere in the recesses of their subconscious minds, know what my heart sounds like from the inside.
Today, two of them headed back to school. The oldest left a week ago. The time always goes way too fast. There doesn’t seem like there are enough seconds in a day when they are around. I want to sit and talk with them, stare at them, drink it all in like some intoxicating, addictive drug.
I was pretty good earlier today when my friend and I dropped off our youngest two, that is until she pointed out, with mom tears in her eyes, that this was really the last time they would be ours, truly ours. In a few short months, those two, our respective babies, will join their siblings with their own apartments. Next summer, there will be another place they will call home. That thought just did me in. So when my middle son took off for his home away from home tonight, there was a little extra poignancy to the goodbyes.
“We’re only a couple hours away, you know” he said “don’t be sad.” Yes, I know. But through my mother eyes and in my heart I want to scream – you are too young, too little, too much mine to share with the rest of the world.
But… share I will, because they are also too wonderful, amazing, smart and funny to keep all to myself. And so begins the empty nest all over again….
Tomorrow will be the last day of school for Tim. It will also be the last day of school for this mom, and this family, marking the end of an era. Tomorrow I will get up, make my last school breakfast and pack my last school lunch. I will send my (not so) little one off for his last day of high school. A week ago, we watched his last choral concert and celebrated our last music awards. Next week, we will sit through our final academic awards ceremony and we will enjoy our last high school graduation ceremony, with all its smiles and tears. It is but one of the many “lasts” that one experiences as the parent of the baby of the family who is growing up and heading off to college in the fall. Not much is written about the “lasts”, particularly when one considers exactly how saturated the media is with a child’s “firsts”– the first smile, the first steps, the first birthday, the first day of school. You can hardly throw a rock without coming across an article either making parents feel guilty or worried about those “firsts” – will you miss them, will you do the right thing when they happen, will you be there to preserve that first for all eternity?
Hardly anyone talks about the “lasts” associated with parenthood, but they are just as important. For many of us they signify a parental transition from moms and dads of school age children to empty nesters with kids off in the real world. I won’t lie, there is sadness in seeing 18 years of a set pattern of child raising ending and a comfortable routine coming to an end. Despite my occasional grumblings, for this mom, there will be no more high school concerts, no awards ceremonies, no prepping school lunches, signing homework or permission slips, baking for bake sales, and writing absence notes. No more need to juggle school, music and social calendars along with work obligations and meetings. Those days come to a screeching halt with the last day of school. It is sad, it is hard and it can make you cry (and it has for this mom).
However, in my effort to see things in a positive light, the “lasts” are also a celebration. These “lasts” have their own story to tell. It is a beautiful story. The “firsts” speak of the foray into parenthood; they speak of the newness, the anxiety, the unknown and the awkwardness of being a first time parent with all the worry and sleepless nights that are yet to come.
The “lasts” though, they celebrate a job well done. The lasts signify that we are survivors. We have endured our children’s friendships, broken bones, illnesses, academic challenges, teenage angst, stresses and broken hearts. We have survived the teenage years (for the most part) without strangling anyone, especially our children. We have lived through our children learning to drive and stayed up waiting on curfews and the sound of a car pulling into a driveway, signifying a safe arrival home. We have laughed, cried, worried, yelled, fought and smiled through all those years of being a parent. All those years between the “firsts” and the present. We have come out the other side of high school with young men and young women we can be so very proud of as human beings. We can sit back (just for a bit) and be amazed that these wonderful, kind, thoughtful, beautiful, giving, intelligent creatures came from our wombs. We can beam as our babies walk down the aisle for graduation. We can enjoy the felling of having our hearts swell 100x their size with pride and know that we have played a most instrumental part in shaping the young men and women that our children have become. We can send them off into the world knowing that we have done our best.
These “lasts” are wonderful memories of accomplishments and memories. They should be reveled in and celebrated as we embark on a new era in our, and our children’s, lives. Happy “lasts” to all of you and yours!
Sometimes it’s really hard to be a parent and not necessarily just because your kids can drive you nuts — especially your teenage kids. No, I think it’s really hard because the letting go process, the process of watching your kids growing up, involves such heart tugging for parents. It is very difficult for most parents who genuinely care about the adults that their children will become to sit down or stand by and let lessons be learned however difficult those lessons might be and how much you see the hurt that comes from them reflect in your child’s eyes. It is difficult to teach your children to advocate for themselves, especially when the system might be stacked against them. It is very difficult to sit back when every molecule of your parental instinct makes you want to jump in with both feet and scream your head off about something that is not only inequitable but also inherently flawed. Let’s face it, it is something that most of us have been doing for the better part of a decade and a half or more — standing up for kids who may or may not have been able to stand up for themselves and make sure they are not hurt. It is very difficult for kids and parents alike when hurt can no longer be fixed with kisses and hugs and some lessons fall completely outside of any parental control whatsoever.
In a few of the recent situations it would be easy and less painful for the parent to throw around parental weight, especially when this parental weight comes with a law license. Easy to go in guns blazing, spewing threats of litigation and violations of due process and other legalese. Easy, but not then again not so easy. Sure, exerting pressure may have changed the outcome. What lesson, though, does my son learn when his problems were fixed by his mother or his father in that situation? What lesson, indeed. How heart wrenching for the parent-part of that lawyer to see what could be construed as an injustice being done and having to sit by idly.
Faced with decisions as parents we sometimes made a difficult choices looking out for the long term good of our children and the men or women they will become. The short term ramifications of the situations and those decisions can haunt us in the short term and cause us, as parents, to second guess what seemed so apparent at a specific moment in time.
Sometimes, however, we need to step by from the situation and not get wrapped up in the “hype” of all of it and realize that in the long term, it may not be as important as it seems this moment, but the decision that was made that preceded it and the lessons learned from that decision, may have an endless ripple effect throughout the child’s life — that is the real test, not some silly accolade, or title or piece of material.
Time does not change us. It just unfolds us. ~ Max Frisch
My how they’ve grown. I was looking through pictures to find a good foliage picture for an article I was writing for the Rutland County Express and I realized just how much the boys have grown and changed –dare I saw morphed into little (well not so little) men. You sometimes don’t really realize the drastic changes until you compare pictures.
In 2008 my guys looked like this:
In 2009 almost exactly a year later they looked like this:
And then 2010 rolled around — same time of the year…..
And just a couple weeks ago, I snapped this picture when we were in Montreal:
All three of them now tower over me, not that that is so amazing after all look at my hubby. Hard to believe how much they’ve grown up in what seems like a blink of the eye. They are unfolding into such handsome young men.
In the last two weeks, we’ve celebrated two of our boys’ birthdays. The oldest two have birthdays that are ten days apart. They are less than a year apart in age. They are however very different. The oldest is clearly … well, the oldest. He can be bossy with his siblings, he is used to getting what he wants and he has also matured a great deal. He no longer grumbles and complains when he is asked to do things, he just does them – a sign of maturity and a welcome respite from answering and arguing about why something needs to be done. He is very outgoing and clearly shines when he is in a social situation.
Our second son, who is a middle child, is fiercely independent and very comfortable entertaining himself. He doesn’t need a large group to feel at home, although he doesn’t shy away from groups of friends. He’s empathetic and introverted. He wants to be a pediatrician or a dentist – clearly choices that fit his personality and I think he will do well caring for others. While he doesn’t say much – he is a man of few words – he is ever watchful and very protective…especially of his younger brother. He is always aware of what is going on around him, although sometimes you wouldn’t know it. We often joke that he knows where everything is…especially when his older brother can’t seem to find something.
So interesting to see how two children with the same genetics, born so close together and raised almost simultaneously have such different personalities, outlooks on their world and perceptions.
When the boys were little, we often celebrated their birthdays together. Here they are in the “king” chairs at their joint birthday party.
Here’s pictures from this year’s birthdays….amazing how they’ve grown. Boy, time sure does fly….