Image of a high school senior staring at the ocean contemplating the future.
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Kids Done Grown

I didn’t want to title this post, using the dreaded nest reference.  You know the one.  I don’t dread for it’s meaning, just the overused cliched nature.  Also, I’m still dreaming that my kids are about the ages 5 and 1 on a regular basis, so that may mean I’m not completely cool with them being grown up.  However, after 25 years, I still haven’t figured out what the recurring nightmare of waiting on a hundred tables at once at The Olive Garden means, so what do I know?

I do know that I love this guy and I am spending every second with him that I can this summer, without embarrassing him or cramping his style.  If that means re-watching Lost, including the dippy last season, then so be it.

(Total sidetone: It feels surreal to watch Lost and remember myself at the age I was when first watching it around the time of Hurricane Rita. Yes, the timeline of my adult life is defined by hurricanes and evacuations.  I was about the age of most of the cast and now realize I am so much older than they were then. And they are much older than they were then… and both of my kids are older and will not be living with me anymore…and now I’m rocking back and forth, with my head in my hands.)

Truly, I’ve made peace with the fact that my children are basically grown.  I feel so special to have been chosen to be their mother.  Not just any mother, but the mother of these, exact two people.  There’s no one else like them.  I have known them since before they were born.  This guy liked to kick, a lot.  I remember doing a kickboxing aerobics class with him, in utero, and seeing the bulges of his little feet or hands kicking away inside of me.  He was either letting me know he was feisty too or else he was protesting the overly loud Hackers soundtrack the instructor repeatedly played.

I think he was feisty.  I remember that before he could walk, he would pull up into a standing position and then try to lift heavy things from off of the floor.  It wasn’t like he could take them anywhere, he just wanted to see if he could do it.  There was a look of pure, concentrated joy on his face when he would pull at a cabinet door we had fixed with yet another child safety lock until it would pop open, bits of plastic and springs flying in different directions around him.

There was an almost maniacal mirth in his baby laugh that was super contagious.  I’d especially hear it when he was being chased and when he was the one chasing.  He was very tenderhearted about living things.  He couldn’t handle Dances with Wolves because the wolf dies.  He couldn’t handle March of the Penguins because two seconds into it, a penguin dies.  It took much convincing to get him to watch beyond the opening scene of Toy Story 2 because he just knew Buzz died.  Of course, this isn’t the order these shows were introduced to him.  Just last month he tried to bend the prongs of the chain link fence between our yard and our next-door neighbor’s downward so cats crossing over wouldn’t get hurt.  Don’t tell anyone, but he’s a total softie.

I spoke in one of my podcast episodes about how proud I am of my son for accomplishing certain goals that he set for himself (with no pressure from us) while in high school.  He worked hard to get good grades and do the work on his own.  He also made Eagle Scout ranking in 3 years.  He did this without much help from me because I was in the unusual place of taking care of elderly family members.  It’s not the titles he earned that I am proud of.  It is the way he went about earning them, while helping us at home and helping his great-grandparents.

So I won’t say more about that here.  I want to show the senior photos I took, some of which are very stoic because he didn’t yet have his braces off, and share with you some random memories of my boy:

Of not being able to nap for five minutes because he would get into something, somehow, in our over-the-top baby-proofed house.  I clearly remember the day I bolted upright after 3 minutes of desperate napping because it was too quiet, and found he’d left the room.  No, he’d left the house.  He was in the backyard with a Bowie knife, he wasn’t supposed to know existed, from a cupboard too high for him to reach unless he climbed up the oven.  That sentence is dripping with “Bad Mom” implications.  If that wasn’t enough, he then told me he was only trying to find snakes in the bushes.  Don’t judge the weary mom.  I swear, it was absolutely the only dangerous thing left in our home for him to do.  I just never would have believed it was possible.  How could a toddler retain memory of a knife, and it’s hiding place, they’d seen like once as a baby.  Needless to say, I never napped again. Ever.

He and his sister making a raft out of twigs and string they found while camping in the Smoky Mountains.  They spent hours following it down the creek by our camper, hopping from rock to rock, then picking it out of the water and doing it all over again.

How patiently he would sit on my lap as I read a story.  I didn’t have to do lots of voices or use emphasis, though I always did, he was really into the story.

Every day he got to go to the library, he’d come home with reptile books.

I love that I have the evolution of his drawings from the first squiggles, to characters from Fullmetal Alchemist, to original drawings of people or imagined battle scenes.

How he would lay on the floor to watch Scooby Doo with his head on our big lab, Mo, as a pillow.

How much, as a small boy, he wanted me to play legos with him, yet he couldn’t control his perfectionism about what he wanted to make.  So he slyly re-arranged whatever I built while trying to redirect my attention.  Similarly, he felt a need to oversee the battery usage of all of his battery-operated toys.  He rarely turned them on to conserve power and didn’t like for us to.  (He is still a saver.)  I remember him trying to convince a group of friends that it was actually more fun to shoot toy laser guns without the sounds on and that searching for the nerf pellets after shooting them was the highlight of the game.

Sometimes, if he was rude or gruff, he would later come into the room and say he was sorry, all on his own.  He would say why he did it, and how he knew it must have made me feel and didn’t want to do that anymore.  Of course, I wasn’t going to hold it against him if he hadn’t apologized, but I was often surprised by his self-awareness.  I mean, I don’t know many adults who can apologize that way, in sincerity.

I remember how he and his sister could climb like monkeys up the rope that hung from a gigantic oak tree in one of our backyards, using only their arms. Then they’d flip upside down and take their hands off, using only the rope wrapped around a leg to hold on.

Once, as toddler we were driving and, from the backseat, he let me know where I stood in his estimation, “Mama, you’re better’n a semi.”  As in semi-trailer truck.  Still haven’t made that “Better than a semi.” t-shirt.

I remember when he finally outplayed his dad in video games.  I heard him, from the next room,  consoling my husband saying, “No, Daddy, you’re not the worst at video games.”

I adore the memory of the Christmas we scrimped to buy he and his sister a trampoline.  We sent them out to the garage to “get some gifts we said we’d accidentally left outside.”  This was a ruse to get them to walk into the backyard and see their real gift.  They froze in place for a couple of seconds then grabbed each other tight, screaming, and jumping up and down.  It was the sweetest thing because they expected little that year.

Something we all enjoy is his rendition of how things happened.  It could be a memory of one of our vacations or something like an occurrence at school.  It will probably be exaggerated and from a wry perspective.  Whatever it is, we usually end up laughing, even when he’s not trying for humor.

I can’t draw big conclusions or say what life will be like if I only see him once a week for four years, then, maybe, less.  I can say some of what I am because of knowing him, though.  I have learned what I am capable of as he learned it too.  I saw the power in my words and deeds, as a mother.  It was humbling and scary at times.  Yet still, I began to relax about it, somehow.  There was unexpected confirmation that the love I give is good.  It’s simple, but something I never truly believed before.

Just knowing someone and seeing them grow into who they were meant to be was enough for me.  But my thoughts were sometimes reflected, sometimes altered by this person, too.  I was first and foremost their mother, but I was also gaining clarity on who I had already been and who I would be.  I was learning about my God.  Hope burned brighter.  And that sense of of community, the most precious one, of people who knew you or were known by you, from the beginning, is my happiest place. Where small victories are won, where we laugh about things only we would laugh at, where we huddled together in prayer, and where we practiced a million mundane, precious daily rituals together.  Though I will miss his consistent presence, I know that I am left a more whole person for having had it in the first place.  So, I can’t complain.

(more on flickr and instagram)

So, I’m a softie, too.  If you want more parental sentimentality, I looked up posts on my daughter before her graduation: outtakes, senior photos, and more motherly thoughts. And then just another…because.

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