Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Boy, Then a Man, Always My Son

He's 17. A man. A boy. Some days a boy in a man's body but more often than not, he's fully a man. Well on his way to adulthood.

I love both of my boys, my eldest is 22 but this is about my youngest.

Because of the late spring timing of his birthday, he enters his junior year of high school chronologically ahead of his peers, often more advanced/mature than his classmates. Yet not in all ways, he remains foolish at times, as we moms well know.

Lately, although he will tell you forever, I have struggled with his growing up. Struggled with letting him go. How can he be ready to face the world on his own soon, when he cannot even remember to pick up the wet towels off of the wood floor? Or remove the dishes with leftover food in them from his room before they become moldy? Weighty issues certainly. Is he ready for more independence? Is it time for his dad to step up more? Is that what a young man needs? Does he still need his mom in the same way he did ten, or even five, years ago?

A couple of months ago, I asked him if he needed me around anymore. He hemmed and hawed, trying to find a politically correct answer, a fragile balance between the truth and his mom's feelings. In the end, what he came up with was: I'd trained him well how to take care of himself i.e. doing laundry, taking care of pets, cleaning his room, studying for class and going to work. How, he asked, would he grow up if I don't now let him be more independent and put those skills to work? But, I asked, did he need me here in order for him to be able to do those things? No, he said, but he would like to have me around sometimes. I think specifically to make tomato-potato soup and mashed potatoes for him and maybe to schedule his haircuts and buy his deodorant.

His reponse has caused me to do much thinking since then, especially in the last couple of weeks. We had another conversation just this week at which time he read this missive. How tightly do I continue to hang on? Is it for him or for me? He's made some pretty stupid judgment calls but then so have I. Does he need help navigating the shoals in his life that threaten to wreck him? Does he need me day to day, literally onsite? Or is it more being available in his life when he needs me?
These last few weeks I've been faced with decisions about my own life as I close one chapter and begin another anew. I am dealing with the dissolution of my marriage and somewhat, my family. Wondering, do I stay in this toxic environment that threatens to destroy ME? Would my son be okay with his dad? Would he suffer if I moved to another place but was able to be local frequently?

Much more discussion needs to take place, but I've realized he will be fine no matter where I am, as long as we can be together frequently in person and always available by some kind of electronic media.

So, if knowing he will be not only fine but successful, I now begin to explore where I want to be: New England, Michigan, Colorado, even Ohio. Where? There are a myriad of factors to be weighed as I contemplate my own future. Each place having significant reasons to relocate there i.e. family, work possibilities, friends, quality of life, cost of living, etc. Some places calling to me more than others. Sooner rather than later, it looks like I can plan a change, which I am currently doing so. The next part of my life awaits. And with his blessing.

What I do know for certain is this: I raised a fine young man, independent and capable of being more so, as he nears graduation. Independent . . . but still loves his mom. I must relate a recent discussion we had. I had told him some truthful, yet disturbing news about me. He put his arms around me, told me he loves me and understands. And could I please fix some of my great mashed potatoes for his girlfriend for her birthday?

Told you he needs me for some important things :-)

I am proud of him. He can be launched into young adulthood no matter where I am physically, in relation to him. I can be available for him whenever and wherever he needs me, whether I am here or there for he is in my heart, and I in his.

He was a boy. Now he is a man. But he will always be my son.


cityslipper (food dryer home) said...

Very thoughtful and thought-provoking as my oldest son is 16 and about to take his road test. It's hard to imagine how ginormously different life will be as the kids finish school and, presumably, leave home. It sounds as though you have quite a range of options, and that you're coming into a rather grand adventure.

Best of luck with the transition; I hope it's highly satisfying, and that it brings you some comfort.

Dan Eskelson said...

You're doing just fine! Letting go completely while still being there whenever needed is a balancing act that we never learn completely.

Even after four kids grown and gone I have much to learn.

Don't be so hard on yourself. You are way ahead of many parents, and your son obviously knows it.

Continue to follow your heart.

BTW, handsome young man...takes after his mother.

Christina Salwitz said...

Cityslipper and I at the same point. Realizing the changes that freedom and driving brings.
In our house we are eager to enjoy "our" freedom just as much as letting out teen enjoy hers.
Always a Mom and an ever present source of comfort and security. Just not at the end of a little, fat fingered hand any longer.
Lovely post and generous with your words and thoughts as usual.
Be kind to yourself first and others will follow suit.

TC said...

I think much the same can be said about daughters and their fathers. It's clearly visible that you love your son dearly. Nothing can break that bond.

Susan aka Miss R said...

Ok Stephanie, you made me cry. Thank you for sharing your feelings--mine are much the same and the past year has been a struggle as the boy went to college reducing the home front to a party of one. Life's ebb and flow sometimes has a rough undertow--luckily we know how to tread water and then swim to new and sometimes distant shores.

Garden Chick said...

Thank you, Susan. I am just hoping that the new shore is one like in the Turks and Caicos and not the Hudson River :-) I hope the same for you, too.

Garden Chick said...

Cityslipper, Dan, and Christina,

Thank you for your encouraging words. You have no idea how much they mean.