Today my oldest turned 19. I’ve been a mother for 19 years. In some ways that is hard to fathom; in others it seems like just yesterday when our music minister Terry and my mom drove me to the hospital. (Interesting story, but for another time.)
For some 18+ years I was able to raise my precious son Daniel. He depended on me for meals, clean clothes, advice, safety, fresh sheets, rides to wherever he needed to go, school supplies, and a good hug. Now, he needs me for none of those things.
Sure, I still get to give him an occasional dose of advice, but he is no longer obligated to take it. And because he has worked so hard at part-time jobs and because he’s earned a full scholarship to college, his dad and I rarely foot the bill for anything he needs or wants. He never brings home dirty clothes or sheets for me to wash (I do hope he has washed his sheets at least once this semester!), and he drives wherever he needs to go and even pays for his own gas most of the time. I’m glad to say he still wants hugs from me, but I’m not so naive as to think I’m the only one offering him hugs these days. Of course, I don’t think you can ever replace a hug from mom. Don’t those kind of stand in a category all by themselves?
I hope so, because it’s hard enough transitioning from being a full-time mom to a mom of a college student. I have welcomed every stage of my kids’ lives with complete abandon. I’ve not been one to cry at the door of the kindergarten room or to sulk because I no longer get to go to Chuck E. Cheeze’s. But somehow, those shifts in the scenery pale in comparison to this one. It’s like I haven’t just taken a turn on the trail, but departed from it completely. In fact, come to think of it, I feel very much like I did the day my Aunt Ida, my friend Kim and I stepped off the AT after our four day trek – victorious that I’ve completed it well, tired from the journey, relieved to move on to the next adventure, a little worst for the wear, thrilled with the outcome, but more than a little sad to be getting off the trail. It was a lovely trail, after all. Hard, but lovely.
I never was one much for babies. I didn’t have my babies so I could have babies. Some women do, you know. I had babies because I wanted a family – a family that would one day grow up. I wanted children I could raise to be adults. I looked forward to the day my kids could sit around a table and have intelligent, good-humored, and interesting conversations with James and me, … like we did yesterday. I constantly kept in mind the adults I wanted my kids to grow up to be, the ones they have become in Daniel’s case and are quickly becoming in Abigail’s. And I’ve always enjoyed those moments when my children showed one more sign of maturity, one more clue that they were getting it.
But now that I’m here, with one 19-year-old, very independent, very capable, and delightfully mature young man, I’m a little sad. It’s been a lovely trail, and it’s hard to depart from it.
Of course, I’m not completely off the parenting trail. I still have one at home and I’m enjoying the trail equally with her. Being the parent of a female, I get to see a few different sights, cross some different bridges, and explore some new territory. I’m thankful for the path Abby and I are on.
But mine and Daniel’s trail has definitely changed. We’re on a new course now, one where we’re walking more side by side. The trail talk differs and we split up more often, checking in with each other only occasionally.
And so, on this 19th birthday, I’m thrilled for the man my son is becoming. I feel victorious for a trail well traveled. But I’m still a little miffed about the change in scenery. I didn’t cry when he went to kindergarten, but 19 is whole different thing.
If you’ve been there, done that, I could definitely use a word of encouragement from you today. If you haven’t, don’t spend too much time lamenting what is inevitably to come. Instead, just enjoy every load of laundry, every carpool, and every science project for which you are needed. One day they’ll drive home to see you, pay for their own gas, and show you the new clothes they bought and keep clean on their own. And if you’re lucky, they’ll give you a big hug and say they love you. Because mama hugs never get old.