My son turned sixteen last week. SIXTEEN!? How the heck did that happen? I remember the day he was born. I remember everything so clearly. Most of all I remember the overwhelming feeling of responsibility that came over me as I held him so very cautiously for the very first time. I cried. I was totally overwhelmed with emotion. And now he is almost six foot… but it feels like yesterday.
The good news is I haven’t broken him. I haven’t killed him or dropped him or done any of the gazillion things I feared I may do, with that overwhelming new mom fear that you have. He is alive and well and healthy. And happy. And awesome.
The bad news is that overwhelming responsibility I felt that very first day has not gone away one tiny bit. I think I feel the weight of it as deeply each day as I did that first day. If not more. And some days it totally breaks my heart because as he has grown. I have had to sever apron strings, and let go a little more each day. But I want to hold him as completely as I did when he was in my belly. I want to keep him safe, in a warm place filled with love and security. But I can’t. And that scares the wits out of me. Every day he faces the world on his own. Every day he is faced with choices I have to trust him to make – and I am not talking ‘choose an apple or a cookie’ kinds of choices. I am talking about choosing good over evil. Will he choose that loose girl who is prepared to do pretty much anything with anyone for some popularity, or the conservative girl who won’t put up with that nonsense? Will he choose the fun friend who experiments with Hubbly Bubblies and shisha sticks… or the studious friend who won’t go to those parties? Will he choose to do his work and hand things in on time, or opt to rather get in trouble because the immediate gratification is more important? Will he choose whether he is going to try the beer, or Vodka and Redbull with his 18yr old team mates, or wait until his legal time? How will he choose how to speak to the girl who has the biggest crush on him that he can’t really stand to be around? Will he choose to follow the girl he adores around like a silly puppy, while she slowly chips away at his self-esteem, or will he choose to separate and hang out with his real mates?
Every day he does these things. Without me. And it almost kills me. I want to be the little angel on his shoulder and protect and guide him in all situations. I even want to be the little devil at times and help him put that skanky tease in her place when she is clearly using him to make the “BAE” she really wants jealous. I want to give him the insight and adult coping skills he needs to handle those situations in ways that he won’t one day look back and cringe with regret over. Like we did. Like I did.
I still want to hold him in my arms, and protect him fiercely. But I can’t. Time has marched on. And I want to throw an almighty tantrum at it and say NO! NO! NO!
The weight of parenthood is possibly the heaviest thing I have ever had to bear. I worry about it every day. All day. Is he ok? Is he really happy? Is he being used and misled? Is he standing up for the underdog? Is he messing around at school? Is he going to make the team he desperately wants to? Is he really trying his best at school?
Time is marching on and I cannot fight any of his battles for him anymore. It doesn’t matter that my momma bear instinct is still as strong and raw as ever, now I have to curb it and trust that he has learnt enough from me to be able to handle those things and make those choices on his own, hopefully in the right way.
That is what parenting is, right? Preparing the child for the road, instead of padding that bumpy road with cottonwool.
Time marches on. Pregnancy feels like it takes forever, and then suddenly they are out. Then you muddle through infancy and before you know it they are toddlers… pre-schoolers… big schoolers… Then it’s their final year of primary school and you are choosing high schools and new uniforms. Before you have even blinked your eye they are choosing subjects and suddenly you realise you have 3 more December holidays with them and they will be out the house.
Enjoy the tiny moments you have with them. Trust that how you treat them and what you tell them will sink in and ultimately those values you impart will take root and the child you are raising will become a teenager… then adult… whose choices you can trust.
Time is marching on. But don’t rush it. Take time out and consciously enjoy being a parent. Their days march by so quickly, so don’t wish it away…