"Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them- a mother's approval, a father's nod, are covered by moments of their own accomplishments. It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives."
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven
When I started having children my life ended as I knew it and my children became my life. Days of no sleep, nursing sick children, cleaning up puke, performing first aid on endless cuts, scrapes and bruises, yelling and arguing, sadness, laughter and love, many talks and sometimes just listening, being chauffeur to many play dates, sports, sleepovers, and misc. events. The list goes on and on when you become a parent.
With each one of my children I couldn't wait for my baby to crawl, walk, talk, make friends, start school, become a teenager(Beware-Parents do not always look forward to these years), have their first date, get their drivers license, get their first job, graduate from High School, College, moving out of the house, and finally finding the one they want to marry. Always wanting them to grow up, then sorry when they do. You would think when we already know the outcome, it would be easy to let our child go. We should be kicking them out the minute they turn of legal age, patting ourselves on the back and going on a well deserved vacation!
Our lives as parents are so secure when our children our young. We are still in control. Teaching our children, giving advice and paving the path for them to take. Still being able to correct their mistakes and turning every bad situation into a lesson for them to learn. We are there for them, not missing a second of their lives, building a nest of security for them.
The day when your child graduates from High School is one of the proudest days in a child's life. A milestone stating their childhood is complete and their willingness to start their adulthood while they still know everything has started.
I remember watching my son graduate from High School. One of the proud moments of his life and of mine. A sense that I did alright as a parent. College was his next step and he would be leaving soon after his High School graduation, which, made this special day bitter/sweet. I prepared the whole time being a parent teaching this child to be successful in life and now I was having to put faith in my own teachings and trust I taught him enough, so he will be able to go out in the world and be a successful, functional young adult; Understanding he will have challenges in life and I won't always be there for him, not because I don't want to be there, but because I know he isn't going to share things with me like when he was young.
The day my son left home for college was a sobering one. I'm excited to see what kind of adult he will be and what life has in store for him, but sad my baby is growing up and his childhood is nothing but pictures in photo albums and memories now. Finally, understanding that stage in our lives is over, is an emotional one. I wanted to hold him and never let him go, but at the same time I could see his excitement, his anxiety, his longing for self independence to move on and become his own person, this only reminded me of the day I left home and I knew I had to let him go.
It wasn't long until he was to busy for family gatherings. "Can't take off work, or "have to much homework to do," were his famous words for everything. Our family learned to do things without him; sadly after a while it was normal to not have him around. For the first time I began to understand why my mom and grandparents got so excited for the holidays. The day you will have ALL your family home with you. Life hadn't gotten to busy he didn't want to be home for the holidays and I was going to take full advantage of it. I started to look forward to when college was out and I knew he would be home. I decorated to impress him and made sure all his childhood memories and favorite decorations were sitting out around the house, so we could reminisce about them later. The holidays were no longer about making it fun, but cherishing the time I had all my children home.
I wanted to know everything while he was home. How he was doing in school? Friends? Girlfriends? How his life was going? I wanted him to tell me everything like he use too. He would answer my questions, but I could feel a sense of coolness, he was to old to share these answers with his mother and he acted like it was awkward; maybe I was being a bit nosey. I realize now it's harder for the parent when a child becomes an adult, than it is for the child. It hurts to see the closeness slipping away, I am not the main person in his life anymore. When he was growing up he depended on me for everything, now he depends on his friends. I saw it slowly happening, just like it did for me and my parents when I became an adult. He was becoming independent. I had always thought in the back of my mind It would never happen to me! I was going to be the "Cool" parent, I was his "BFF." I kept up on all the latest technology to not become old fashion. Foolish enough to think time would stop for me.
His High School sweetheart went to college with him. I gave them their freshman year before they would break up; to my amazement they found a way to make it last. Pretty soon, he was bringing her home for the holidays, it wasn't just him anymore. Really? I didn't even get my holidays with him anymore. I had to share! His girlfriend was a very nice girl, but I saw him turning to her more than to me and this was a new stage for us. One I wasn't sure I wanted to get use too. My first reaction was to yell at him and tell him he was to young to have a serious relationship. I wanted to ground him and send him to his room until I realized he was in college, living on his own, in his twenties and he was completely acting his age. As a mother the hardest thing to do is to welcome another girl into your son's life, to come to terms with the realization I won't be the only girl in his life anymore.
By his Senior year of College the "BIG" day came when he told me he wanted to ask his girlfriend to marry him. We talked for hours it seemed. I think secretly I was hoping to talk him out of it for my own selfish reasons, but knowing in my heart it would never happen I had to accept it and let him move on. I felt very honored when he chose me to go with him to pick her engagement ring. It was a moment I will always cherish. I knew the whole time we were looking at rings this would probably be the last real mother/son time we would have before he started his next journey. We went to all the jewelry stores in town before we found the perfect ring for this special girl he had chosen to make his wife. I couldn't help but keep staring at my little boy, this is when I realized my son had truly become a man.
He proposed to her like a perfect gentleman with honor respecting her enough to ask her father for her hand in marriage first. Her parents were so excited. They gave him their blessing and anxiously waited for two weeks before their daughter called and told them she was getting married. Her parents later told us everytime she would call and not say anything they got nervous that my son had changed his mind. When she finally called to let them know my son had proposed they were ecstatic. The next time we saw them she was wearing her ring. It looked gorgeous on her and my son was proud to show it off to us. I smiled and hugged them both still thinking in the back of my head these kids were to young, but realizing I was only two years older than them when I got married.The only thing I asked of my son before he went to college was to not get married until he had finished college and had something to offer a wife and a family and he did exactly what I had asked so, how could I be upset. He respected me as a parent to listen, so I had to respect him that he knew what he was doing.
Soon we had his college graduation. What an honor to share this experience with him, and, of course his fiance. I was getting use to the fact that she was part of our family now. We had gained another daughter. All my other children loved her. My younger son even had a little crush on her and was devastated when his brother asked her to marry him, because he wanted to marry her when he was all grown up. I remember during his graduation I was looking all around to see him so I could give him a hug and put a lei around him and congratulate him. When I saw him he hugged me, I could see he was happy I was there, but his eyes were wandering as he asked where "SHE" was. He was looking for his fiance, not me. This was devastating! I called her down and graciously handed her my lei to have her put around my son and I took their picture. The way he looked at her I could see the love in these young kids eyes. I look at this picture almost everyday to remind me I will always be his mother, but his adulthood life will be shared with her. When I see the love in their eyes I know everything is the way it's suppose to be.
Exactly a month after his college graduation we were sitting at his wedding. This day was a surreal moment for me. I was there, but it felt like I was dreaming it. My baby was getting married. There was no turning back now. This boy I loved and invested so much of my life into was now going to share his life with someone else. I was being pushed to the sidelines. It felt so unfair, and so out of my control. Doing the right thing can be SO hard sometimes. I will merely become the holiday parent and occasional phone call. I won't even get the holidays anymore I will have to share the holidays with her family now, I've never spent a christmas without him. This is going to be new territory for me. I won't be the person he counts on, shares his secrets with, asks advice, I can't kiss his "boo, boo's" anymore and tell him everything will be alright. She will now be who he turns too, which, is how it should be, this parenting stuff is getting a lot harder than I thought it would be. I've decided raising him was easy, the biggest challenge has been letting him go.
After his wedding my son and his new bride came to stay with us while they waited for the day to come they were leaving for Hawaii, this is where they decided to start their lives together as a married couple. I cherished every day I had with him. I dreaded going to bed knowing when I woke up it was one less day we had left with him. He spent a lot of time with his siblings. I could see them rebuilding their relationships again and they flocked around my son, as if, he was a celebrity. They went to movies, played games and sat in their rooms talking for hours making memories. I cooked all his favorite dinners and foods for him. I enjoyed being able to cook for him once more. I had my whole family at the table again, but this time we had an addition to the family. She fit right in with our crazy, dysfunctional family.
I kept going over thoughts in my mind did I do everything I wanted to do with him? Then, I remembered we never went to Disneyland! Ever since he was 8 years old I kept telling him we would go to Disneyland and we never did. How could I have let that slip by? How could I have forgotten to take him? Right then, I wanted to cry. I failed as a mother. I forgot to take him to Disneyland. All these years gone by and he never said a word to me about it. I wonder when he gave up on going? What kind of mother was I? My next family vacation will be to Disneyland and I will make sure he can come! The rest of the week I wanted to bring it up and talk to him about it, but I was so ashamed of myself I couldn't say the words, instead I watched silently from a distance and took a lot of family pictures trying to cram everything into one week. My house was full and I loved it!
The day finally came when we had to say Good-bye. I had so much I wanted to say and yet the ride to the shuttle they would take to the airport was silent. I was scared if I said anything I was going to break down and cry. I had to remain strong I was the Mother, I could tell he was having a hard time saying Good-bye, so I couldn't break down. For the first time in my life I had no control over him. I couldn't stop him from leaving. I couldn't ground him or make him stay. I just wanted to hold him and never let him go, but I had to graciously bow down and let him go. This was his time, the future is new for him, unexplored, so many dreams he is making with his wife and challenges they will face together, they deserved to have their turn. The day every parent dreads had finally come for me. Wanting to tell him not to leave, but knowing I couldn't. I tearfully hugged him and saw his face looking at me wanting reassurance he was doing the right thing. I smiled at him and nodded and told him he will do great. He smiled and I knew things were just as they were suppose to be. I told him I loved him and I watched him leave.
We followed their shuttle on the freeway as far as the exit to our home. I quietly said Good-bye one last time to the boy I remember as I saw the shuttle disappear knowing the next time I saw him he wouldn't be the boy, but a man with his own family and responsibilities, he had entered into adulthood. The ride home I felt nauseous and torn. There is a void in my heart now where someone is missing. I don't like it, but I accept it, not because I want to only because I know that is how life was intended to be. We all grow up and move on, we all have our turn being children, teenagers, adults, spouse, parent, and grand-parent. I can't change that. This is how the world works. I will admit the thought that I only have being a grandparent left is pretty depressing.
When we got home and I walked in the house nothing in my house looked the same, I found my eyes wandering straight to the family pictures hanging on the wall. I didn't care about the couch I had to have and insisted we buy. I didn't care about the computer I saved months to buy or the vase I spent way to much money on so it would match my couch. I cared about the pictures on my wall. When I walked into the family room and saw my three other children. I stopped and stared at them. They feel asleep watching T.V. waiting for us to come home. I went over to them after taking a few pictures and embraced each one of them, kissing them on the cheek; understanding the day will come when I will have to cut those apron strings and tell them Good-bye too, but it's not this day.