We celebrated two birthdays this month.
They both hit hard, if being completely honest.
The one who made me a mom turned 18 and his sister, well, she’ll happily tell anyone she’s now 15.
For my veteran parent readers, you know what this all means – independence. While one is embracing it fully, the other is chomping at the bit for the months ahead, which will lead to the same thing.
I’ve shared before my gratitude for all the friends before me, their wisdom, warnings and transparency on what’s to come. Thanks largely to them, we’ve weathered thus far pretty unscathed by way of trauma or unspeakable incidents which teens can tend to bring.
Not to be misleading, just as they’ve aged, so too have I and that’s not due to job stress. Sleepless nights, life lesson lectures and coming to grips with raising a teen in a time which is so vastly different than “when we grew up” has indeed been a challenge.
Two weeks ago, however, as we celebrated my now 18-year-old, I could not help but be a bit proud of how far he’s come and what’s ahead for him.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that holds true for his sister as well. I mean, not to brag or be boastful, but they’re good kids. While they’ve been raised hearing the words, “my job here is not to be your friend. My job is to be your mom and hopefully someday, I’ll be your friend as well.”
Truth be told, I like my kids (most days). Oh sure, they can be lazy, messy, forgetful and all the things. Yet at the end of the day, they are equally helpful, easy going, funny and loving. I like my kids and I’m equally grateful for that as well.
But this bit of musings is for the parent like me, blindsided by the quickness of aging children, the mum of young ones, tired and ready for them to become independent or even the tenured parent who “remembers when.”
The parenthood club is a special one for sure. It’s my experience that there are several camps within this club: the perfectionist parent who loves the world to be wowed by their mastery; the hot mess parent, who’s grateful to make it through each day and get their kids to bed in one piece; the transparent parent who lives by a philosophy of no smoke and mirrors, just happy to be in the game; and the ghost parent whom due to circumstance of life may or may not be involved in their child’s life.
I honestly think I could identify with more than one of these, perhaps you can too. As a working, single mom I’ve been blessed to be able to be present for most of the big moments in my children’s lives. However, schedules with work and school or sports don’t always seem to align, so there’s that. It’s a bummer, but it’s also life.
Part of being a responsible parent is teaching your child disappointment and how to weather it with both grace and humility.
As I type those words, my mind goes on a million different tangents which can take this column in seven different directions … welcome to parenthood. A job which you may wake to thinking you have the day all laid out only to be sidetracked by a vomiting child, an injury that finds you in the ER or a commitment you forgot to pen on the calendar. It’s all a crap shoot and if you’re lucky you can end the day with a moment to breathe and perhaps a morning to reflect.
That’s really what this is about after all. Looking at my 6’2” 18-year-old and thinking where in the world did this time go? The once chubby little towhead, who called me mommy, cracked silly jokes, spoke with a lisp and held my hand whenever possible.
Now a man speaking of college aspirations (he’ll be a senior this fall), holding the doors open for his girlfriend and working a job though summer to prepare for his future.
My eyes tear as I type this. A recipe of both pride and bittersweet tears, as I anticipate what’s next.
Talking college with my duo is fun. I loved that chapter of my life, as well as the chapter which immediately followed it. My 20-something years were both memorable and complete; I hope that for them as well.
It was once told to me that as parents we are simply stewards, children aren’t “ours” in the big scheme of things. We are simply the humans trusted to mold them and see them through until they go out into the world and create their path.
I just never expected it to come this fast.
So for the mommy (or daddy), ending the day after wrangling energetic toddlers, praying for the day when they will sit quietly or the mom bus driver who’s ready to hang up her hat after spending most of her day in a minivan or SUV – savor.those.moments.
Trust me when I say, there is no greater joy for me now than to drive my kids somewhere, sit on the sidelines and watch them compete or perform or simply just share an ice cream with them to hear about their life.
For now, I’m grateful to have this awareness now as my son enters one more year of high school and I cherish the car time I share with his sister as she learns to navigate high school and all that brings.
Love those littles dear readers, even if they have (physically) outgrown you.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.