Lately I keep seeing posts about how you only have 18 summers with your children. At first I rolled my eyes and thought it was the silliest thing I had read. How can I only have 18 summers with my kids…it’s not as if they suddenly disappear after 18 years. They don’t stop being my kids after 18 years. This week my son has been working, hanging with friends, making plans for the weekends, not always home for dinner and funny enough, I realized something. You really only do get 18 summers with your kids. I wish I had known sooner. This realization was crushing. My baby doesn’t need me anymore as he once did. Moreover, he doesn’t want me involved in his life as much as he once did. It’s not a bad thing. We all reach that age where we want to be independent, make decisions, go on adventures. We take control of our lives. We grow up. It’s not that we no longer need our parents, because we always do. It is that we need them differently and that change has become noticeable for us this summer. For the 18 year old it is a time to revel in new freedoms and take on new responsibilities. For the mama, it is time to suck it up and accept that while she will always be needed, it is time to step back and trust that she did everything she could to give him the confidence and tools to be the best man he could be.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I think we are a pretty tight knit family. We have done so much together. Our children know they are loved but this week I noticed it. Once 18 hits, there is a change and it happens overnight. For my boy, the time has come for independence and spending his wings. For me it is about letting go and trying to be at peace with it. It isn’t the smoothest of transitions but then I don’t remember mine being much different than his. I find myself trying to remember how I felt when I was 18, yet appreciating how my parents felt when that time suddenly arrived. My baby is a young man, and I am happy and proud but a little sad at the same time.
To my son,
You are one of two people who have heard my heart beat from the inside. You and I started our relationship 9 months before anyone else got the chance to meet you and fall in love with your contagious smile. I fell in love with the idea of you when 2 lines popped up on that pregnancy test. I loved feeling you move and stretch, I didn’t even mind when you kicked my ribs or helped me gain 41 lbs. There are no words to accurately describe how I felt when we finally met face to face. If I had to try, it would be to say my heart was filled with this incredible feeling of love, protectiveness and pride. You became the centre of my universe and you looked at me as if I were the sun.
You don’t remember it, but there was a time when you cried when I left the room and you smiled and laughed when I returned. You hated your crib. You hated it so much you ended up sleeping on me, beside me, holding my fingers or with your hand on my cheek. So many nights I fell asleep in bed, curled up around you, breathing in the scent of your baby shampoo and drifting off to the rhythmic sound of your breathing.
You were the centre of my world, every decision I made, everything I did, held your wellbeing in consideration. You looked at me with eyes so bright and a smile that lit up every room. I basked in the knowledge that I, your mama, was your person, your comfort, your first love. I was your sun, until I wasn’t.
One day the tides began to change and the moon eclipsed the sun and you no longer needed my light as you revelled in the moon and all he was. The moon is your Dad. Daddies are amazing people. To you he was your protector, your playmate, the guy who taught you how to play glow stick hockey on new hardwood floors. He played hide and seek, taught you soccer and played Rescue Heros and crash up cars. While you still loved the sun and would seek out it’s warmth at night to fall asleep, and it’s light when you were scared or sad, you loved basking in the light of the moon. I’m ok with that because I too love the moon.
As you grew our relationship changed, you came to me for snacks, advice, when you had embarrassing questions, or were in trouble and we always worked thru them together. You snuggled less, didn’t like kisses in public, but still held my hand when we were sitting in the car. Even if I wasn’t as cool as Dad, I knew you needed me and that was enough. Being your mama is the best privilege every bestowed to me.
The tides again changed when you turned 16. You got your first real taste of independence, a driver’s license and your car. No longer did you need us to drive you everywhere. The ability and excitement of having the freedom to get to where you wanted, on your own, was one of pride for both you and me. You grew more into a young adult and resembled less a teenager in that passing year.
At 17 you traveled to the other side of the world. I cried so hard when I bought your ticket. You and I had never been apart more than a few days. Your dad laughed at me and offered to send me with you but I knew this trip was something I had to let you do without me, and you wanted to do with your team. At 17 you saw parts of Europe and played soccer at a level many never achieve and we are so very proud of you for embracing that opportunity and for seeing the amazing young man you are becoming. You called me every day at 3am, and I was so happy to give up sleep to hear your voice and hear of your adventures.
At 18, life decided to test you a little bit. You had knee surgery on your 18th birthday, and lost the ability to play soccer for a year. I know that was devastating. You graduated high school but missed commencement. You didn’t get to walk across stage in your cap and gown and throw your cap into the air. You attended your graduation party, but missed the after party because of post surgery pain. That must have really sucked. I’m sorry. You didn’t return to Europe for soccer. That must have really stung.
On the bright side, you got a great summer job, you were accepted to college and you decided you would bounce back. You can go to Europe next year if you work hard. You have great friends and a bright future. You met life’s test and you passed.
When all these things happened, we helped you fix and adjust your plans. Life is always about fixing and adjusting from day to day. We encouraged you and helped you start to heal and begin to laugh again. You still have the very best belly laugh.
What you didn’t see was that I cried when you had to have knee surgery. You were so scared and I couldn’t fix this for you. You were so sad about losing a year of soccer after working so hard to get to the level you achieved, and I couldn’t fix it for you. I hurt because you hurt. You were frustrated and there was nothing I could do to fix that for you either. You bounced back. You are stubborn and you decided to make a new plan to achieve your goals. You are resilient. You may not know it yet, or realize how resilient you are, but you really are. You get a little of that from me.
This week I realized that I only had 18 summers with you. I thought I had more time. You have graduated. You have become an adult. You are spreading your wings and making plans and decisions about how to spend your days and where you are headed in the future. We argue a lot now. So much more than before, and I hate it. Hate is a strong word, but I really hate arguing with you. We are both are so stubborn, and sarcastic and sometimes impulsive. We are so much the same, it’s kind of funny. In your mind it is simply you taking control of your sails, and me not wanting to give you all that control for fear you may not know what to do with it. I fear you will sail too far away or hit rough waters and I will not be able to guide you home. If I am the sun, then to you I shine too bright and too hot and you need some distance to grow and plot your own course. I get it, I just don’t want to do it. Moms are like that. We are given these amazing little people for 18 years to love, teach and cherish and then one day we must let you go so you can become the person you were meant to be.
If time is a currency then I have spent mine in abundance. It was time well spent and I invested in you fully and am so proud of the person you have become. I suspect we will struggle somewhat over the next year or two as you plot your course, find your career, explore the world around you, find new friends, fall in love and one day have a family of your own. Forgive me if I hold on too tight and struggle to let you go. My heart was meant for loving you and it doesn’t know how to let you go. I will likely fight you part of the way, for it is my nature to protect you, nurture you, and watch over you like the sun stays close to the earth. You will never stop being my baby, and I will never stop being your mama. Age can never change that simple truth. Motherhood will only end with my last breath, and I promised you when you were 4, that I would live to 100…so you will have to put up with me for at least another 55 years. I promise to try and give you space, and respect your decisions. I promise to have your back, give you advice when you ask and probably when you don’t ask. We will argue, and you might not always like me, but that’s ok because I will always love you to the moon and back. The moon will always love you too and we will always be there to shine over you and be your light when you need it.
Being you mama is the greatest gift the universe has given me. It isn’t always easy, but then the best things in life never are. Just know that I love you, and I know that you love me. If the first 18 years of life are a season, then I think we weathered it beautifully as I know we will the seasons that follow. Thank you for being my baby, for being my son, for being half of my heart.
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living,
my baby you’ll be”- Robert Munsch. (my favorite children’s author)