The leaves on the trees are already beginning to turn, just a hint of color, but, nonetheless, color. A few have even begun to flutter to the ground, drifting daintily in the gently breeze. The record temperatures continue here in the northeast, but autumn has signaled her approach. I head back to work next week, as my two younger children go back to school. A part of me is ready for the return of routine, of structure, ready for that space of time during the day when I am not being beckoned to drive to and fro. And, yet, a part of me hates to see the summer go. I have so many projects yet to complete, tasks I convince myself I could complete if I had a week or two all to myself.
Ha! I have been drifting these past few years, wafting where the wind moves me, just as the foilage surrounding my home. Like most mothers I know, I am a master of many trades: I run the household, handle the accounting for my husband’s business, work outside of the home, and then, I try to take time building my dreams of writing, taking care of me. And like most of you, some days I wipe chunks of to-do tasks off my lists, while on other days, I seem to leave several in a state of unfinish. “Every day we are doing our best, but some days our best is better than others,” that’s another of my mantras, one I often pull from my arsenal.
I found it interesting when I read the last post, Family Momentum II. What a difference a few short weeks can make. I felt confidence in my work, confidence my son was moving forward. But this past few weeks have produced some unsettling details. A boy. A girl. Another long distance relationship, an emerging pattern that concerns me. Reckless behavior that is most common among teens, yet can be so foolish. A rumored pregnancy…
Still, gossip or not, I am uncomfortable. I recognize the strains of distance. I fear that space only increases the possiblity of all caution being thrown to the wind when they are able to see each other for brief periods of time. After all, long intervals apart do seem to make more than the heart grow fonder. This is natural. But it is not my time to be a grandmother! Ha! As if my life has anything to do with it any more. Chuckle.
My son is a young adult, now. Real life lessons are his passengers. It is his steering wheel. But there are so many rules and exceptions and variables. There are so many events that could alter the course of the rest of his life. So many memories and stories and examples I have shared, so many more I could offer in helping him avoid placing himself into a disastrous situation. More importantly, stories that might help him traverse into a well balanced (ugh, yes, it’s there, the words are at the tip of my tongue… no regrets. I know! It doesn’t exist!) adulthood.
I can’t sit back and watch without doing something, without saying nothing. But my interference, my advice, merely builds a wedge between us. These are his lessons to learn. I understand that my job as Mommy, is done. And, yet, I cannot do nothing, for I believe I would not be doing my part as parent if I abandonded my role, if I ceased sharing my knowledge, especially when I feel he could be, well, making a mistake that will last a lifetime, when I feel he is not thinking logically. But how do I help him, this almost adult?
I clearly remember being eighteen, nineteen, twenty. I remember being an adult. Headstrong. Wise. I had learned life’s lessons. Uh-huh. I also happen to believe, all these years later, in the cliche, Mama knows best. Wink.
But this Mama, like so many others, knows she doesn’t know everything, not just in her head, but in her heart. So I reach out. I talk to friends and family who have experienced or are experiencing the task of parenting the almost adult. I am blessed to have such a sage circle of friends. My sister provided the insight I needed for this most recent situation: “Maybe long distance relationships have become his norm, what he knows. Ask him what a healthy relationship looks like to him. Don’t lecture because he’ll tune you out.”
I wrote my son A Letter from Mom, and expedited it via e-mail.
I want you to know how much I love you! I miss you, too, but I am happy that you are able to continue on the path toward your long term goals. That is part of parenting, a part of love, really, learning to let go, to allow another to have their own freedom and independence and to learn their own mistakes… That, I think, is one of the hardest thing for parents to do, to let their children learn from their own mistakes. It is merely because we care, because we want to help spare some of the heartaches, even when we recognize that from heartache comes growth and wisdom and learning and maturity…
All that said, I am concerned, as I’ve told you, about some of your recent decisions. So, instead of lecture, I’d like to pose some questions to you. Please ponder them. I believe you will find value in your answers…
1. What does a healthy relationship look like to you? Is it one filled with daily drama and fear and tensions?
2. Does a healthy relationship involve a person that you will go months on end without seeing, forever? For the duration–the full span–of that relationship? Does it involve not being able to share the daily “little” things? Does your healthy relationship include missing out on things like going to the movies, swimming on a sultry summer day, walking hand-in-hand to class, to the grocery store? Eating dinner over a messy plate of pasta? Learning about your partner, about each other’s quirks that might drive you insane? Those idiosyncrasies that could be “deal breakers,” or could result in the growth of your relationship?
3. If you can accept not having regular contact with that person, how do you see yourself in a family setting? How do you picture yourself as a dad? Does it include living in the same house with the child’s mother? Does it include living with a mother who you know so well you’d trust her with your life? Do you see yourself as a spouse? Or merely living with that someone because that’s what is expected after two people create a baby? Do you see yourself missing out on those fleeting smiles that occur each day? Your child’s first smiles, words, steps?
4. Do you see yourself in a relationship that is forever bound to some sort of desperation? Or do you imagine yourself in a relationship where your partner is confident, open and honest, one who can express when she is feeling vulnerable, without perpetual hysterics and crisis? Do you see yourself involved with a person who can rationally express their concerns, to talk about them in an articulate manner? A person who values your thoughts and ideas and opinions, yet is still able to think on her own, incorporating your expressions out of respect, not out of some sort of hero worship?
5. Would your life crumble, would your hopes and dreams fail, would your life cease to have meaning if you did not have girlfriend for a period of time?
6. Do you still love me? 😉 Just kidding. Hope I made you smile. I know you still love me. Even when you’re mad at me. Sound familiar?
Have a good day, Son. Dad and/or I are always here if you want to talk, if you want to share your day, your accomplishments, your worries, or some funny little tale. It is a balancing act for us. We still want to be a part of your life, yet we also want you to enjoy this new chapter, to give you the “space” you want and so deserve… We are trying to balance those two. Hope that makes sense!
I have felt at peace since I sent him, my college kid, this letter. I believe with all my heart, I did my best in this situation, that I provided him with all I had, that I fulfilled my role as parent. The rest is up to him. For now. Until next time…
As I finish this post, the branches of the tree outside my window sway and bounce. What remains of Hurricane Earl has made its way to the northeast. The winds have pushed out the stifling heat, and the air surrounding me is some thirty degrees cooler than yesterday. It is almost autumn. My hummingbirds return every few minutes to drink from the feeder. A crimson leaf flutters to the ground. The life cycle continues. My work, for today, is done.