Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thoughts on Turning the Tassel

A friend of mine said to me, "I can't believe you have a child graduating from high school. How is it possible that we're that old?"

But, yes, it's true. Come Sunday, I'll be the parent of a high school graduate. This brings mixed emotions. For one, I can't believe I'm actually old enough to have an 18 year old child. That doesn't come from an "oh, hell, I'm old" sort of place. It comes from that place that makes me wonder where the years have gone. Wasn't it just the other day that I graduated high school?

I remember my first day as a freshman. I remember my first day of kindergarten. The latter of which my son informed me was downright freaky that anyone 40 years old could remember her first day of school.

It amazes me. 18 1/2 years ago, this newborn baby that was my son was flopped on my chest, and congratulations, it's a boy. I remember the first day he and I were left alone when my husband returned to work after his arrival into this world. I looked at him. He looked at me. "Okay," I said out loud, "Now what?"

It wasn't long until this nagging panic and worry overtook me, and I began to question a lot of things. What if he got sick and I didn't know what to do? Did I even have the first clue about this motherhood business? Would I know what to do and when to do it? The one thing I knew for sure was that he needed me. This realization made me worry about his first day of kindergarten long before he took his first step.

It seems like a week ago Monday that I stood outside with him waiting on the bus that first day. His backpack on his back was nearly bigger than him. I thought he might need a boost to make it up the steps of the bus. Waiting on the bus to bring him home might have been the longest day of my life.

He survived; more importantly, I survived.

Another thing the whole cap and tassel event brings forward is pride. There was never any doubt that he'd graduate. He's not a dumb boy. Prone to putting his all in things that interest him, yes. Dumber than a box of rocks, no. This being a baby, toddler, kid, and teenager - no easy feat.

I'm also proud of myself. This kid rearing thing - not an easy task, either. Letting go and letting a child grow up, even more difficult. There are times I hold my breath, wish I had a prescription for a sedative, and hope for the best.

"Look both ways before you cross the street" has been replaced with "Come to a complete stop and proceed through the intersection only after you're sure nothing is coming."

"Don't eat crayons or bugs" has become "I hope you're smart enough not to get involved in drugs or alcohol."

"Don't talk to strangers" is now "It's great to have a lot of friends and hang out with new people, but if they are doing things you know you shouldn't be doing, be a strong enough individual to remove yourself from the situation."

"Don't jump off the garage roof or run with scissors" is replaced with "Don't drive like a maniac. You don't only risk hurting yourself, but anyone in your car or on the road."

Some of the best advice I was given was not to forget what it was like to be that age. I haven't forgotten. I understand when he tells me it is a little scary. I remember being ready to take on the world. I was ready to grow up and be an adult. In retrospect, I would have heeded the advice to be in no hurry.

I don't know when a parent reaches the point they can say, "I've done what I can for you, now it's your turn to take over." I don't know if I'll ever feel that way entirely. While the apron strings are a tattered mess, thread-bare, and strained from his pulling away and my pulling back, I know that I'll always be mom whether he's 8 days, 8 or 80.

He's no longer that tiny babe that depended on me for everything, but I still look at him and ask myself, "Now what?"

1 comment:

G. Eric Francis said...

The bad new is that little boy is now a man (a big man, from what I can the good news is that you're ONLY 40, and you have one kid out of the next. Not too shabby...:)