I couldn’t tell you exactly how I got here, to this moment, when my little bundle of a son went from being my Cookie to the growing gentle giant he is at 6’3”, a junior in high school, looking at colleges. It’s all a bit of a blur actually. I have memories of almost having an emergency C-section to rolling matchbox cars and a ball back in forth on the kitchen floor to “I got this mom,” as I slowly recognized his independence and that he didn’t need quite as much help as he once did. As I write this, I’m reminded of how life is really a collection of moments and, if I am too busy looking towards the next, I’ll miss this one. How do I stay present, enjoy and celebrate what’s in front of me while accepting that this moment too will join my other memories in the library of my life?
As I think about the journey I’ve taken to get to this point in our lives, I’m mindful of the infinite number of pathways families take to this moment of separation, one we all face at one point or another. I imagine all parents and guardians experiencing something similar as they traverse this time of change. Different circumstances, resources and opportunities create the individual landscapes we navigate and, at some point, we all reach the moment where we begin to step back.
I recognize the size of my world and the boundaries surrounding it. I have lived in the same region my whole life, traveled some and know there is so much more I want to see. I take comfort in predictability and create ease in my life with the borders of routine. I remember mine and my husband’s intentions for our sons, to push out those boundaries and see limitless possibility, truly having the world as their oyster. Now, as I live the experience of the letting go required for my son to fully spread his wings and fly, I’m chuckling to myself thinking, “me and my big mouth!” For the first time I’m seeing the beginning of how this will expand. As I recall other parents that have come before me, I have an inkling of what others might have felt when they expressed a desire to live near their adult kids, their family, to continue being a part of their lives.
As we spend time this fall touring colleges, acknowledging the privilege of our circumstance, we have had the gift of enjoying the gorgeous change of colors that explode throughout the Hudson Valley. As we move through this next season I’m struck by this season of life, this time when I see my son and I entering this period of growth and separation. As mother nature intended, we have children, they grow and have their own children, and on and on it goes. Once again, I remember Maya Angelou’s poignant quote,
“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart walking around outside your body.”
At my first reading of this quote many years ago, I was able to keep my heart, now outside my body, pretty close. (Toddlers, although quite fast, don’t really go too far.) Now, however, I must prepare myself to let my love, my son, go far and wide, trusting in the integrity of who he is and all that we have done to equip him as he takes this next step.
I think about the intimacy of one’s relationship with their child. When I think of the word intimacy, immediately my mind goes to the relationship one has with a lover and I also see how all relationships have some varying degree of intimacy. The one I share with my son is so very intimate, has been evolving over all these years and will culminate in a separation that was always meant to be.
As I notice the circle of life, I see this moment as a point on that continuum. It feels larger than some of the other points, taking longer to pass through and of greater intensity and depth than perhaps other passages. This series of moments, this period of time, comes with so much feeling and experience, independent of the many layers and textures of our individual lives.
As I move from one moment to the next, I try to throw my arms back and allow these perspectives to help me celebrate the gifts of growth and the amazing journey from infancy to young man, both for me and my son. I look for the opportunities to celebrate the amazing person my son is, the unique perspective he has as a child of an interracial couple, how lucky we are to have him in our lives and how nature automatically has that expand out into the world, his oyster.
In a previous article, A Mother’s Journey: Video Games, I shared about a moment when we struggled with the ever-present technology demon in our home called the Xbox. At the end of that story, as a very tired mom of two young boys, I recognized a future version of my son was on his way, my young man of tomorrow. He’s getting closer now. Although I know there is still is more growing and challenges to come, I’ve come to understand how I will survive with my heart outside my body.
As he gets bigger, stronger and clearer in who he is and all that he has to share, I now see that a part of him is forever with me and a part of me will forever travel with him. We share a continuum of life, for a time, and then that circle continues on, to a time when he perhaps will be the parent and it is his heart that will forever walk outside his body, as he adds memories to the library of his life.