About a week before Christmas, my 10-year-old came off the bus and told me he was very sad. When I asked him why, he told me that it was because it was almost Christmas, and that meant that all the things he loved about the holiday season — the music, parties, and presents — would soon be over.
When I relayed the story back to my mother, she laughed and said, “Wow, he really is your son. That is exactly what you used to say when you were his age.”
It’s true. I have always had the tendency to mourn things even before they have started, whether it was a holiday, vacation, or even my wedding. The anticipation I felt about the event ending was so intense that I had a hard time just enjoying it because I was already feeling the loss.
Knowing that this was a part of my personality, I have done my best to suppress my nature when it’s come to enjoying my children. (Therapy didn’t hurt either.) Throughout their lives I have made sure to savor the feel of babies in my arms, toddler kisses, and childhood prayers. I wanted to enjoy every minute of my precious time with them.
Life with three kids can be hectic, and I know it caused more than a few of my hairs to go gray. But I love it. Motherhood is the one thing I have always felt I was meant to do. But my oldest, Tom, recently turned 17 and is now a junior in high school. My days with him feel numbered and rather than enjoy the ride, I find myself falling into old habits.
The boy I pushed in the stroller is now learning to drive. The little boy who would ask me to dry his tears before I left him at nursery school now kisses the top of my head as he leaves to catch his bus in the morning. It’s tempting for me to focus my energies on giving him up to the world. I’m already thinking about next year, when he will be a senior, and his next birthday, when he will turn 18. In other words, I am having a hard time staying in the here and now.
For 2016 I’m making myself a promise. I’m not going to rush this time in Tom’s life. I’m not going to spend the next year mourning the loss of my little boy. I am going to enjoy the person he has become.
I’m going to get off the computer when he comes home — deadlines be damned. I will sit with him while he eats a snack and listen to the details of his day before he rushes off to do his homework or takes refuge with his phone, friends, and music.
I will make sure to take him to lunch a few times during the year. We did this for his birthday, and it was so much fun to meet him at school and whisk him away for a quick Chinese lunch and then get him back to class. My mom used to do the same thing with me when I was in high school, and it’s a memory I still cherish. I forget how lovely it is to just have time with Tom without my other two competing for my time.
I will make sure that I never give him the feeling that it’s not anything but totally normal and wonderful that he wants to leave us when he is ready to do so. I am so proud of the man he is growing into.
Beyond proud really. He is moving into the time of life where there are so many possibilities. It can be so exciting, but it can also be scary. I know he will probably have some disappointments along the way. I want him to know that he is up for anything the world will dish out. Wherever he ends up, he can always depend on his dad and I to give him a soft place to land.
By changing the lens that I view his last years in high school, I hope to not only help my son grow, I also hope that I can enjoy this time for the beginning it is. Not the end I fear.
Janine Huldie says
I M trying to do more of the same this year as well with my girls, because even though they are still young, I keep reminding myself that this time will only last so long and don’t want to miss a moment of it either. So love your advice and again so trying to follow it here, as well now! 😉
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Andrea Brovetto says
I am still crying. A beautiful and very truthful post Kathy. Love you much. Mom
My teenager and I just had a long conversation about the importance of being present now and not getting caught up in the future.
That is not entirely his fault, because I have a tendency to look ahead and talk about how fast time is moving because that is how it feels.
But we are living today, not yesterday and not tomorrow.
It is not always easy to do, but I am working hard to make sure my first focus is on the right stuff.
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Oh my, Kathy, I’m exactly the same way looking far ahead and missing the ‘now’ and its joys. Good for you for this realization and I’m sure you’ll be making tons of cherished memories with Tom this year and always!
Rena McDaniel says
You are such a terrific mother Kathy. I’ve gone through it twice, but with my oldest he signed up for the Marines before College. He was 20 years old in Afghanistan. It was probably the worst year of my life. We knew he was going (into the Marines not Afghanistan) so that year before him and I would do the same thing. I treasure those days.
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I’m so glad to hear you plan to spend this time with Tom and really enjoy it. You’ll never have any regrets, Kathy!
What a great reminder to enjoy the present.
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Laurie Stone says
Its a good idea to see your son graduating high school as the beginning of a new era. Having watched two sons graduate high school, I can tell you life goes on. College, young adulthood… a lot of good stuff lies ahead.
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Lisa Weinstein says
Kathy, I don’t have to tell you how much I can relate. Melissa and I are so close and just the thought of her not being here next year is so hard to comprehend. Like right now, we are both in the living room, she is studying, I am reading your blog, but we are together. Next year at this time I’ll have to rely on technology to connect us….but I am enjoying the here and now. I know that Tom will do will in whatever he tackles because he has you and Joe by his side, always!
Kathryn Boortz says
Thank you for such a touching piece. My kids are still very young, but this is a needed reminder to cherish each day with them! Parenthood can be exhausting and trying, but I would not trade this journey for anything. My best to you as you celebrate this special time in your son’s life.