My second son graduates from high school in five days.
I thought I was ready. After all, this isn’t my first go-’round. I’ve already graduated one son from high school and stood by as he launched himself into the world. Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t feel sorrow at his leaving; I felt great joy and contentment and satisfaction at watching him fly. To see your child soar into the world…that, mamas, is a pleasure.
So I really didn’t expect to feel much differently this time around. But five days out from graduation, I’m kind of a mess. I’m deeply proud of my son — and acutely aware of all the things I didn’t teach him, all the things we haven’t yet done. I love the man he has become and, at the same time, grieve the loss of the little boy he once was. My tree-climbing, butterfly- and Pokemon-card collecting preschooler is gone. In his place stands a young man who towers over me and can’t even pronounce the names of the dinosaurs he once loved, names he once rattled off in a little-kid voice with a little-kid lisp, names I can only pronounce because I had to learn them to read him the dino books he craved between the ages of two and four.
These days, my son is hardly ever home. I know that’s normal. I know that teenagers pull away from their parents, that friends become more important than family during these years. And yet, part of me wants to gather him and the rest of my children under my wings, or at least onto my couch. Part of me wants to go back in time, jump into the photos and once again be immersed in a time when my kids’ world was within my reach.
Back then, their world only stretched as far as I did. They were dependent on me (and their father) for everything — food, shelter, rides, experiences, safety, everything. That, of course, was exhausting. But there was a certain sweetness and safety to it as well. Back then, I could (and did) control what they watched on TV, what they played on the computer and what they ate for meals and snacks. I knew who their friends were and what they did when they got together because they needed me at their side.
I never intended to keep their worlds small. In fact, we homeschooled for many years because we wanted to expose our children to the larger world. We didn’t want our children confined to classrooms with same-age peers; we wanted them to experience and interact with people of all ages, in real-world settings. We wanted them to follow their interests and find their talents, and our children did just that. At age 18, my son has a better sense of himself than I did at age 30.
I can no longer wrap my arms around his world. He now has friends I don’t know and experiences he’ll never share. In a few short months, he’ll go away to college and the population of our house will decrease by one. His world will expand exponentially. Life here will remain much the same; his will change in ways he can’t even yet envision.
My son now stands at center stage, fully in charge of his life and his actions. I’m still getting used to my seat in the audience.