November 20, 2015

Thoughts on Having a Senior

I don’t even know if I have the emotional fortitude to write this, but here goes.

Our oldest son is a senior, and we are starting to have the first “lasts.” The last first day of school. Last Sadie Hawkins.  Last birthday at home. 18!

Eighteen years ago, our son – who weighed in at just under 10 pounds – was born and we felt totally clueless.  For the first three weeks of Carter’s life, it took David, Mom, and me  - all three of us - to change his diaper.  (I had read somewhere that cotton balls dipped in boiled water were better for your baby than wipes, so someone was on cotton ball duty.  I quickly learned to stop reading stuff.) With Carter we grew up. We learned to care for a child. We learned how to parent together. He was our first, so we tried everything out on him – poor kid.
"We don't know what we're doing, but we're smiling anyway."

You think it’s going to last forever.  It seemed like we'd always be in this stage of four kids at home, a crazy home life with music blaring and homework papers everywhere and never enough food for my ever-hungry kids.  But lately I have been faced with the reality that our family life as we know it is soon to change drastically, and I need to be okay with that.  After all, we raise our children to leave the nest eventually, to strike out on their own and make their mark on the world. 

It’s a terrifying prospect.

I did not think we’d be overseas still at this point.  When I would hear of people talking about their big kid issues – sending them off to college, worrying about them, etc. I would think, well, we’ll be long resettled in the U.S. by then.  I don’t have to worry about that.
But here we are, just as firmly planted as we ever were, with no plans to repatriate any time soon.  We are facing the reality that we will be on one side of the globe, and our son will be on the other, in what is, to him, a foreign country, the USA.
So forgive me if I freak out a little over the next few months.  You know how it is with parenting – you hear about different stages, and you either dismiss it because it seems so unfathomably distant in the future, or you disbelieve the hype until it happens to you. And then all of a sudden, it’s like no one has experienced it but you, and certainly not with the depth of feeling that you have right this moment.
I’m the mother of an adult.  I realized this when I was giving him a shoulder rub recently and my hands are practically over my head to reach him, and his shoulders were like, well, a man’s.
"See here, no faster than 30 km an hour, kiddo."
It’s hard not to take the little things he does – just silly little stupid average teenage kid things – and project it on to his future.  Like: He forgot to pay his library fine!!  What if he forgets to pay rent one day?  Will he be evicted? Will he be living under a bridge?

I’m sure there are so many things I’ve neglected to teach him.  My mind races, trying to conjure up all possible scenarios. 
Credit cards.
Car insurance.
I know we’ve missed some things, but I have to remind myself all that we have taught him. Cooking. Driving.  Yes, those are important.  But the bigger things?
Loving God and loving others.
Showing honor and respect to women.
Being compassionate.
Helping before you’re asked.
Being responsible for your messes, both figurative and literal.
Following through on commitments.
Being a friend.
Being a person of integrity.
Being true to himself, his passions, his gifts.
These are the things I most want him to know. To take with him.
And we are making the most of the moments we still have.  Hugging him close.  Fixing his favorite foods. Taking the time to talk, or not talk, just chill on the couch, watching tv.  Praying over him. Loving him to the best of our ability. Which will continue, no matter what side of the globe he's on.