And he’s off again. My baby is in the air and on his way back to Texas to and the Air Force. Only he isn’t a baby. He’s at least six feet tall and when we went shopping a few days ago a salesperson at the Premium Outlet mall in Williamsburg, VA called him “my other half.” My nineteen-year-old son was mortified to be mistaken for anything resembling his mother’s partner. I was flattered, of course. He quickly told me it would all catch up with me soon enough so I better enjoy it now: the “it” being wrinkles, old age, and the hag-like existence my youngest and his older brother keep ensuring will befall me one day.
As a young mother, I spent my whole adult life wrapped up in raising these two fine young men to leave me. And now they have left. I prepared them for disappointment, peer pressure, driving a stick shift, avoiding debt, performing calculus, and navigating dysfunctional family dynamics. They can do their own laundry and handle their own business in the adult world. Success! What I didn’t give much thought to was how hard it would be to be “done.” Now, I know their father and I are not completely finished. They are still our children and always will be, but they don’t need their mother like they used to and (hopefully) never will again. We are full of pride and I am full of sorrow and grief at the same time. I have never been an adult without being a mother first and I must admit I am not sure how to walk into the future in this new mother of adult-children role.
I was nineteen-years-old when I got pregnant with my oldest son. He is twenty-one now. I got married, had his brother, and got divorced. For some time it was just the three of us and grandma. We have always been very close. I learned to be an adult with them and because of them. They have been there for every mistake. Before I was thirty, I remarried and my husband adopted the boys. I sometimes think of the different life they may have had if I had waited to have children until my thirties like some of my friends have done. I would have had a stable career first, a stable husband first, a big house with two and a half bathrooms, vacations at Disney. The three of us have discussed it. They say they like the way they have been raised. They like road trips and visiting roadside attractions. They can navigate in a house with one bathroom: dorm living—no problem. They feel like they have learned things they wouldn’t have learned with “old parents” (their words). They are scrappy and inventive. They appreciate diversity. They appreciate hard work. Because of their experiences, they both want to be young parents—but not too young, thank goodness. Marriage with children by the time they are thirty is the goal.
I love that they have goals. We raised them to look to the future and they do. They both plan and act in their own ways and I have learned to step off and let them choose the direction of their lives. Their father and I are here to support their dreams and goals. I do this very imperfectly as I have a tendency to want to interfere. Interference is my specialty.
While we were shopping, my son said he “parented me” by making a suggestion about an appropriate safe activity. I told him he had probably parented me a lot over the years. This parenting thing is not a one-way street. I suppose I will have to find a way to grow up as well, or grow out, grow into my new life as an adult mother of adults. This will be my 2017. I wish us all luck.