THEN…. AND NOW!
In the past months I’ve written words and more words… in my head. I’ve written about the lengthening days and changing light. I’ve written about time with friends and laughs we’ve shared. I’ve written about travel, and aging, body image, depression, my grandson, (who I’m not allowed to write about), homelessness, and working with high school students. I’ve written countless posts. I’ve written them in my head, and there they’ve stayed… until my youngest child graduated from college last week.
Last week I re-posted a piece from four years ago when my son, Man Cub, graduated from high school. I meant every word when I wrote it, even though I knew it would all change when he finished college. Even as I watched him walk across the stage, the students around him young people I’d known forever. I kept thinking: I’ve seen these kids lose their teeth, learn to play soccer and soft ball and run around a track. I’ve watched them develop breasts and broad chests, and I’ve seen the look of first love on their faces. So many of the faces in that crowd felt dear to me, as I watched my own dear one get a diploma. I knew how fleeting the next four years would be… but here we are, and I am still blindsided.
I thought I got it, but when I arrived in Denver last week to get ready for graduation and spend time with my boy, I found myself taken aback by the strange sense that I had only just arrived to drop him off. There were his same roommates; there was the beautiful campus and the scurrying about to get papers signed and things done. There was the same coffee shop, and the food places we ate at. It all looked the same, though I could see the subtle changes on my son’s face. He had grown up, while time whizzed by for me. As my children have grown, my life has been one flash after another–– precious moments dissolving into a perpetual blur of time.
As mothers we are swept up in the crosshairs of time from the moment our children are born. In the hours and days after their birth, we are cocooned in their sweet newness and the enormous love we feel. It feels like they will always fit in the crook of our arms and smell like our wombs. Yet in a blink, they are turning over, crawling and then walking. As they enter elementary school, we are pulled into a cycle of award ceremonies, playmates and bullies, birthday parties, carpools, sports and dance and hobbies and moments that build upon each other. It can be dizzying. By the time they get to middle school, we begin to see the headlights that will keep us partly blinded for several years to come.
TOO MANY BLINKS TO COUNT… ALL PRECIOUS
Our babies begin to run toward those lights, with changing bodies, sassy attitudes, and a desire to stomp down their own paths. The sweet new smell we thought we’d never forget, is replaced by smelly socks, dirty gym clothes, and the inkling of adulthood. The inevitable moment when they don’t want us to honk the horn and wave, or call out I love you. The moment when they flip us off with a look. If we’re lucky, they choose wisely and we can rest a little easier at night. But even the babes who choose wisely and let us sleep, run along a path that takes them away from us, and many of us spend wakeful hours trying to come to terms with the passing of time, and the trajectory of where we will land. The crosshairs of time hold us all, and time moves on with each blink.
The babies we nurse and clean and hold, and watch over through fevers and colic, coos and smiles, grow up and follow their own paths. The tighter we hold them, the further they are likely to run. The looser we hold, the more they may stumble. Finding the right balance between the two is exhausting, but it’s what every parent does, from the moment they become parents. We all want the best for our children, and hope to see them race along their own path, even as we want to hold them close.
Arriving for graduation last week, I saw my son’s excitement, his wide eyes and chiseled face, and another blip of time hit me between the eyes. My youngest, our “baby,” has spent four years getting a duel college degree, and letting his siblings and parents know that time has marked him as well. His dad and I felt so proud to see him graduating from the University of Denver with a duel major, excellent grades, wonderful friends, and a joie de vivre that inspires me all the time. I so admire (in the words of his incredible DU advisor) his “compassion, curiosity and presence.” Ready or not Mom, he has started along his own path and all we can do is watch him go, wish him blessings along the way, and provide the net that we began weaving the day we first held him. My faith in his choices, my belief in his strength of character and mind, comes with a net that will be there for the rest of my life.
Arriving in Denver, seeing the world he lives in now, the passing of time and the years ahead held me like a deer in the headlights I first saw so long ago. I was reminded that his father and I will always provide a net, but he is leaping off his own cliffs now. There will be no more spring breaks, courses to choose, or things that require our signature. My baby went up to get another diploma, a token of his hard work and study, as his sister and brother did before him. As his father and I did a blip ago. This time I knew it was for real. This marks a whole new phase of our lives together. Now he begins to really move away from us.
All weekend the passage of time and the role that parenthood has played in my life was constantly before me, a reminder that my role in his life becomes more and more symbolic with each year, as has been true with his older siblings. While once I was the person he came to with every coo and smile, every ache or pain, with every playmate and bully, and every major or small decision, now he fills me in on those decisions after he’s made them himself. My opinions still matter to him, but not the way they did when he was small. Just as it should be. Occasionally, he still brings me the choices and asks me what I think, but he’s walking his own path now, just as I continue on mine.
A piece of my heart will always be wherever my children are. Even as they become adults, march along their own paths, and perhaps have children their own, it’s the rare day when I don’t think about each of them. I can remember without pausing what each of them looked like as babies in my arms. I remember the sound of their voices when they were small (though that is fading), and the days we spent together as the hours and days and years passed, and they grew up and away. With each symbolic tick of the clock–– be they elementary school plays, middle school dances, high school and college graduations, marriages, births, jobs, successes and failures–– words have filled my head and asked to be written. While I’ll miss this time in our lives, when at least one of our children is still in school and we play an active role in his life, it’s exciting to look forward to the adventures ahead for Man Cub, and know that my net is strong and wide. Time marches on, but my net will always be wherever my children are.
Are your kids graduating from college? Is time rushing by, or are you enjoying each moment. Share your thoughts in the comment. I read every one, and respond. It makes my day!
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