How They Grow
When I started this blog, I was mom to two little boys. Today, they are seventeen and thirteen. I look at them in disbelief, wondering when they outgrew the space between my chin and belly. I see the display of slippers below the stairs; the size of theirs mock mine. It seems I have the smallest feet in my family. How did that happen? When?
My car is no longer in its usual place when I drive into my garage with my youngest after school; it is with my dear S, taller and stronger than me, driving himself to school already. Seventeen years feels more like five, but a glance their way tells me it must be more. Gone are the little clothes and toys, the high-pitched voices, car seats, strollers, beeswax, playstands and cloth–everything that used to be tiny is bigger than me, appetites included.
Recently, S flew across the States alone for a summer program. It was a first for all of us. Within two days he was sick with a cough and fever. I was truly grateful for technology and the convenience it affords us when we need it. It was easy–on one level–to be in touch and know how he felt at every moment, but I struggled because I wasn’t there to help him get better. His severe asthma attacks have started from a bad cough so I had reason to worry, but all he heard from me was that he would be fine. And he was. On his way home, he was stranded at the airport overnight. Because he’s a minor, staying in a hotel was not an option. He was processed hours after hotel bound passengers and was finally installed in the lounge early morning. It was a difficult time for both of us, but I knew he needed to encounter such challenges to prepare him for ever increasing time alone in various situations. I did my best to support him, knowing he also needed to figure things out himself. We are entering that space of rapid weaning. It feels almost ruthless.
Sometimes I don’t know if I’ve done enough, if I’m on track or, on crazy days, even if there is a track. The teenage years feel like a wilderness to me. Because of Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education, I feel I had a lot of resources during the Early Childhood years but, just like the kids, I find myself more and more alone as they get older. All I know is that it’s a journey taken together, but also very much apart, and the delicate balance is finding out when we can take steps together and when we need to pull away, to let them experience life’s challenges alone and without interference.
There were times I stepped in out of habit and realized, too late, that I shouldn’t have. I was not prepared for the silence and hostility that ensued. But we weathered it and came out on the other side, scathed but whole. There are times I feel I should probably step in more — in their screen time, for example, but find my efforts bordering on futile. I hug even if I am barely hugged back and muster the sense of humor to prod for a squeeze or any feeble sign of reciprocation. There are good days and bad, but that is life, and it is what families are made of.
On the same trip, my S had to spend a few days with his grandmother before flying (alone again, this time with much more confidence after having weathered the worst) to the East Coast to meet his father. I was flying home. I thanked her for having him and she wrote back full of genuine praise for the kind of young man my son is becoming, and the kind of mother I have been.
Sometimes all it needs is someone else’s view to affirm us. I look behind at the stretch of time and feel my mistakes more than I do my successes, just because the painful stuff always makes itself felt and remembered, sharper to the memory than any wave of joy. It is what it is, I tell myself. I am a striving human being, imperfect in too many ways, but full of fierce love for the boys who chose me (and all my baggage) to be their mother in this lifetime. I bow before that bit of knowledge and cling to it on the days when I am afloat and unmoored.
Sometimes that is all I have and it is more than enough.