Posts Tagged ‘letting go’

Oldest Child is home on Spring Break. It’s not the first time he’s been home to visit, nor is it the longest that he’s been home since school started. Over Christmas, he was home for three weeks in between semesters. Each time he comes home, it’s a little bit different. And a learning experience.

The dynamics of our family life have changed. For instance, I’m a creature of habit. I like routine, for the most part. I like to know when I’m waking up, when I’m going to bed, what the schedule is for the day. Having an adult child come home for days or weeks changes all of that. He is no longer accustomed to the routine of the house. He likes to be up late, to sleep in later. His dinner schedule is erratic, I never know if he’ll be here or not and he often doesn’t either. His plans are up in the air and he likes it that way, things that would drive me crazy.

We argue some, too. His idea of a reasonable time to be home is different from mine. I need to know that all of my chicks are safe and sound before I go to sleep and when he’s out late, I lose sleep. It’s a totally selfish thing, to be sure, but all sorts of horrors go through my head as to what could be happening to him and I shudder to think that I could sleep right through it. To be fair, ninety-nine percent of the time he is home at the time we agree on and he is a level-headed kid, but things happen, especially late at night. Rationally, I know that he keeps this schedule at school all the time and that he doesn’t answer to any type of parental figure there. I really don’t worry about it much when he’s at school, but when he’s home, I like to know where he is. He doesn’t need to ask permission at his age, just clue me in.

Before you get the idea that I’m a totally suffocating mother, hear me out. Yes, I’m a wee bit overprotective. Marty Man balances me out on this. We’re a good team. He gives the kids a lot of leeway while I’m the one to tighten the reins on curfews and where they are going. I don’t think my kids have been stifled in any way because of it. I’m not the kind of mother that hovers over their teachers or coaches. They deal with those issues on their own, just like they deal with friend issues on their own. I’m here to listen and offer advice if they want it, but they need to make their own choices about how to handle their lives. I am a stickler, though, for where they’re going, what time they’ll me home, who they are with, and making sure that I know the parents. Again, I don’t think that they were adversely affected by my “meddling” ways. In fact, I think it was, and is, a good thing. My kids know that their parents care about them, as irritating as I can be sometimes.

But the fact remains that I have to let him go. I can’t always keep tabs on him. Oldest Child is legally an adult and I need to remember what it felt like when I went through the same thing. How can he possibly understand that I haven’t always been the way I am now, but that I was eighteen once, too? I also resented my mother’s rules, even though they were very fair, but I wanted to make my own. I used to stay out late most nights, not coming home until the early morning hours, and would sleep until eleven o’clock on Saturdays, my mother sighing over my laziness. My hours were also erratic, but I got myself to school and work on time (I always had one or two, sometimes three, jobs at once) and made my own schedule, even if it meant getting by on three or four hours of sleep. I could do that then. What he doesn’t know, what he hasn’t experienced yet, are the changes that happen when one becomes a spouse and a parent, the things that have turned me into this creature of habit. When I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty, I didn’t have anyone who depended on me to wake them up, get them dressed and off to school on time and then get myself ready for work. I didn’t run my own household, didn’t pay many bills. It was a wonderful, free time, as it should be. It won’t last forever, and I wouldn’t go back to those wonderful, yet confusing, days. I know myself now, much more than I did back then, hence, my preference for a routine rather than spontaneity. He is in that process, but he can’t see the future just yet.

It’s a bit surreal to watch him go through it himself, silently cheering his accomplishments and biting my tongue at some of what he does because he has to figure it out, not me. It’s amazing what hindsight does for you. Some of the decisions that I made at that age perplex me now, as they will him when he’s forty-something, but that’s all part of it. It’s what is supposed to happen. My job now is to be a support, not a keeper. It is taking some getting used to. We have hit snags in the road, to be sure, and we will again but, as I said, he’s a level-headed kid. Just as an example, he’s not spending Spring Break drinking himself stupid on some Florida beach. He’s a great kid, respectful (for the most part), loving, and personable. I have no doubt that he is going to be just fine. We’re learning together, him and me. It’s all good.



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I sent two boys to the Homecoming dance this last Saturday. For Oldest Son, it was his third year going and for Middle Son, it was his first. Of course, they went with to different groups, so picture-taking beforehand was a bit sticky. I did make it to both in time to take tons of pictures, but the contrast between the two groups was so intriguing that I wanted to try and describe it.

Oldest Son’s group has been together for years. It’s a humongous group. They eat and move as a unit, moving from class, to band, to theatre seamlessly, with perpetual, fluid, motion. They text and visit constantly, young men and young ladies both, sharing world views, philosophies, and countless doughnut runs. I admire them. There is a tight-knit core group with others who pop in and out along the way. Unable to get out of work most times, I watch from a distance, occasionally chauffeuring to the movies or other outings, too awkward and stilted to really join in with them, like some of the other moms do. But, I ardently admire their youth, their optimism, their opportunities that are now arising as they prepare to leave for college next August. Most of them are spreading their wings for far-off places, but I believe that they will keep in touch for a long time. I hope they do. They’re wonderful kids with good grades and good families. These are things that I’ve observed in the years that I’ve stood in the background, loving to watch them as they grow and change.

They looked stunning, the girls in a variety of dresses from long and formal to short an cute. Oldest Son’s date wore a dress that I could have possibly chose, although her shoes, adorable on her, would have killed me. The hair was spectacular: curls, up dos, and sparkly-things ran rampant. The boys were handsome in their suits and ties, some all cleaned up from the muddy cross-country meet that morning and ready to go out on the town. This is the most organized, self-sufficient, group I have ever seen, although my best friend from high school, Jenny, would have given them a run for their money.

Middle Son’s group at Homecoming was a mix of old and new friends. While Oldest Son’s group has always been a close, co-ed, group, Middle Son has always run with the boys. He didn’t go to Homecoming last year and only made the decision to ask a friend of his a couple of weeks before the dance. She was already going with a group of girls and a dress had already been purchased, so no fashion worries there. That was my first concern when he told me that he was going to ask her. “Girls need time!” I protested, answered by an eye roll. We went suit shopping six days before the dance, since he hadn’t worn one in, well, ever. It all worked out fine, though, especially since his date’s parents made the first move and we helped them get organized. Flowers were ordered, her father drove them to all of their stops that night, and a few sets of parents had dinner at the same place as the group, a local casual diner in town. The group of six seemed to get on well together at their separate table, talking, laughing, and texting in their fancy party clothes, having fun, but in a different way than the senior group. While they got along in a way that exuded old familiarity, this group was testing it out. It was so interesting to see the differences. We adults got along well, too. We had known one of the couples since Middle Son was in preschool and Marty knew one of the other mothers from when they were in high school together. It was really a pleasant evening and I’m glad I forced my introverted self to do it. The kids went on to the dance and we took Youngest Son home to revel in being the only child for the night.

That night was bittersweet and emotional. My boys are growing up and it showed. One is gone in a matter of months, the other in less than three years. My babies that I used to delight in scooping up and cuddling have turned into strong young men in suits who are thisclose to embarking on their on life journeys without Marty and me. I hate this part and I love this part. I love their independence and I hate their independence. I love them. And their friends.

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I took Oldest Child to a college open house today, an event made more fun because it’s the college where I went my first year out of high school, Wayne State University. Wayne State is located in downtown Detroit and is in the middle of the New Center area, which encompasses the theatre and museum district. made up of buildings both old and new. Old Main, the oldest surviving building with it’s Hogwarts-like hallways, is where I spent some of my happiest hours taking theatre classes while the Student Center, the hub of student life, is currently getting a well-deserved makeover. It’s a wonderfully spread-out campus full of people, skyline, and general busyness that accompanies a big city. I absolutely loved it when I was there and really wish I hadn’t screwed it up, but I don’t want this to be about me today. This is about the journey that he is taking and where he’ll be a year from now.

Wayne State is one of the colleges that Oldest Child is seriously considering. He loves that it’s in an urban area and that the program he’s applying to has a heavy concentration on community service and social programs. He wants to give back to the community, social justice being a special interest of his. Detroit is a good place to exercise that. We don’t go downtown often. The cost of parking is a deterrent and I don’t like big events like sporting events or concerts, but we have been to the DIA, the Renaissance Cen, and other odd occasions, not to mention my penchant for attracting jury duty notices. Still, he feels a pull toward a big city, like me. We went on the official tour last spring. A bouncy little coed took us all around campus, including the new dorms. Wayne has transformed from a commuter college into a residential one and judging from their enrollment numbers, it’s been a successful transition. As I said, he is considering other places, too, but Wayne seems to be a heavy contender.

As we walked around, I had some deja vu moments that were quite unexpected and lovely. Is it possible to get excited about the card machine that used to be in the parking garage more than twenty years ago, or the small stone stairway down to the Studio Theatre? It was all new to him, though, and I enjoyed seeing it through his eyes. On the spring tour, I could see his mind putting himself on campus, in the dorm that we toured and the buildings we passed through. I could see him getting excited about the opportunities open to him and, yes, the prospect of being on his own, free from parental rule

A senior in high school is a wonderful thing, if one is academically sound and well-rounded. Oldest Child is both of those and so we expect some good things to open up. We want that for him, this chance to learn at a respected college and to fly free. His brothers just want his room. Unlike me, he put his nose to the grindstone in high school. He got a B+ once and was teased mercilessly. It never happened again. The cool part is that we never pushed him to this, only to do his best. He has always known what he wants to do in life and he knows that the way to get there is to work hard. This apparently does not extend to putting his laundry away or taking his junk off of the living room chair, but in school, he’s a rock star. He’s had this drive since he was small and it’s now beginning to reward him.

I know that most parents are proud of their kids. Marty and I are no exception. Like all parents, we want better for our children than what we had, but at the same time, we want them to learn how to succeed on their own, without coddling him or fighting his battles. We have never bailed him out of anything, but tried to let his consequences teach him the lesson. Oldest Child is doing a good job of handling things so far, researching not only colleges and their programs, but financial aid packages and scholarships.

Now I know that college is a different world. I’ll begin preparing him for that this year. He’ll begin doing his own laundry and keeping his room neater, as he will most likely have a roommate, and he already pays for his extras himself with his part-time job. Some kids, bright kids, fall instead of fly during that first year, giving in to the temptations that will surround them in a residential hall. I hope he doesn’t fall. I hope that we’ve given him enough of a good foundation from which he can make good choices, but ultimately that’s just it: they’re his choices now. Eighteen is just around the corner and we won’t have a say anymore. He will be able to work any job he wants, live wherever he wants, smoke cigarettes (please, God, no), get a tattoo, even get married. (Again, please, God, no.) He’ll be a, gulp, adult in the eyes of the law and we’ll just be there for emotional support.

It doesn’t seem possible. When the nurse hands that squalling baby to you in the delivery room, she doesn’t tell you how fast it will go by, how fast he’ll turn from helpless, snuggly, baby to defiant toddler to independent student to defiant teenager and then they walk away. Not forever, I know he’ll be back no matter where he goes, but this will be his time to grow and to shine, to become the person he was meant to be. He’ll never be ours again. From college on, it will be different.

Sometimes, I want that little boy back. You know, the one who squealed with excitement over making friends with a bug on the sidewalk or danced around the living room in his kilt and tam from Scotland. Tight hugs and sticky, but wonderful, kisses, boo boos, and bedtime stories are replaced by a young man with stubble on his chin and a deep voice whose shoes are bigger than yours. The hugs are still wonderful, but those chubby arms have grown into muscular ones.

But then, there’s that light in his eyes that shines as he explores his potential new home. That light that tells you that even though the two of you may still fight over keeping his phone and ipod downstairs at night (a family rule), he’s almost ready to fly, to begin his own life. And somehow, even though you still don’t want to let him go, you’re okay with that.

For him, you have to be.

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