You know how sometimes, you start to think about the deeper meaning of a certain event in your life, and suddenly, you are taken down an emotional path you didn't expect?
Today is one of those days.
It began by waking my son and wishing him a happy birthday. A fairly routine event in all of our lives. Celebrating the birthdays of those close to us. For parents, sometimes those birthdays carry a lot of emotion for one reason or another. First birthdays for example. Or, milestone birthdays like sweet 16 or turning 21.
Yet today, it got me. It's not really a milestone birthday, but then again, it is. He is my eldest child. Seventeen years ago today, he made me a mom. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. How is that possible? I'm still 28! Forget the fact I was actually 29 when he was born...
No, seriously. How is it possible that 17 years have already flown by from the day he was born? Everyone always says, "Enjoy them, they grow up so fast!" It's so true! There were many days when he was younger, I couldn't wait for him to get older. There were equally as many days I wished I could somehow savor where he was and slowed down the whole growing up thing.
So why am I so emotional? Well, aside from the obvious that my baby is growing up? It's really a lot deeper than that. He is one year away from official adulthood. He is a senior in high school. Even though he still enjoys birthday streamers on his door, he's really no longer a child. He's a young adult. Aside from the fact he's driving and starting to blossom into a more independent young man, it hit me he'll be graduating next spring. GRADUATING. That means he'll be leaving the nest. He'll be going off to college. I won't see him every day. I won't have any control over what he does, who he spends his time with, or where he goes. I may not hear from him for days or weeks at a time. He's going to leave his mama!
That scares the bejesus out of me!
It's already begun... kind of like training wheels for both of us I suppose.
I know it's as much about letting go for me as it is about learning to be independent for him. I get it. I just don't like it.
After some thought, I realized that today, it's the anticipatory grief of letting him go. Even though rationally, I know this is how development works. But I've already lost a child. For real. To an accidental and preventable death. My greatest fear is losing another one, be it literally or figuratively. Statistics tell me that's not likely (they also told me Meghan's death was not likely) and statistics also tell me that these next few years are fraught with opportunities for stupid choices on his part or those of whom he spends his time with, and that one lapse in judgement, one moment of peer pressure, and... well, it can rob an anxious mama of her sleep for years to come!
I know I will need to let go and hope and pray I've raised him to do the right things in life. I have to hope he will embrace the challenges that lay ahead of him and rise to the occasion to take the reins of life and make good, healthy choices. I've taught him how to use his wings properly, it's up to him to fly. I hope he can say, "No." I have to hope he finds happiness and success and that learns from his mistakes without serious life long consequences. I have to hope he will learn to fly without my constant reminders, nagging, and support. I hope he'll want to learn to fly. Hell, I hope he'll remember to eat since he's too damn lazy to make himself anything!
It's more than that, though.
It's also a day that makes me look back 17 years to who I was then, and who I've become today, in large part, thanks to him and his brother and sister. Becoming a parent changes you forever. No one and nothing can prepare you for that. He was a very challenging child on many levels. He still is at times. He taught me as much as I taught him, maybe more.
I am most definitely not the same person I was this day seventeen years ago. I am most definitely not the person I thought I'd be as he embarks on his senior year in high school. My life is really not at all what I imagined it would be the day he was born. Is anyone's?
A lot can happen in 17 years. I can't help but think about all he's seen and been through in his 17 years. All we've been through together. The birth of twin siblings when he was 3. He lost his beloved sister when he was merely 6 years old. For a time, he even blamed himself, thinking he should have somehow been able to save her. He really struggled with her loss, and still does today. He has learned a lot about grief and emotion, life, love, and death, and the importance of grief keeping, sharing, and honoring life and death. He is a wise old soul. I wonder what his life's purpose is. I wonder where his path will lead him...
It is worth mentioning, today is also a trigger day for me. Yes it's HIS birthday, but I can't help but wonder what his relationship with is sister would be like today. It is a day that she should be here, celebrating with us, but she is not. It makes my heart ache for all of us. What she would want to do to celebrate her big brother and his bird day (yes, bird day)? I'm pretty sure she'd make it special. It makes me so sad that she's not here to celebrate with us. To celebrate him. It makes days like this very bittersweet for me. I am often on the verge of tears and irritable for much of the day, all while trying to go about my day and make it be all about him, as it should be. Well, I DID give birth to him, and that was no picnic! So I should get a little shout out! :-)
That's just how grief manifests sometimes. When you don't always expect it to.
He is also a child of divorce, and has 2 step-parents. That was obviously not what I expected to be the state of our family 17 years ago. He's already been in 2 weddings, ours! He has a fantastic relationship with his step-dad, less so with his step-mother. He has a large extended family and step-family. I know he loves his mama! Even if it's mostly because I feed him. He is the big brother, and is learning to balance that role as a positive role model/mentor role and the obligatory teasing and sibling rivalry that brothers share. He's been to more wakes and funerals and weddings than most kids his age. He's had a lot of loss in his life. Then again, he's also had a lot of love and learned how to cope with all of these things, and he now has an empathy and compassion far beyond most boys his age as a result. He is fantastic with younger children, too. The girls think he's all that. He is a handsome fella...
Then there is the history that he's witnessed and the state of the world today, not to mention what he and all of our children will inherit in the years to come... It makes a mama's heart ache for her son's future. All I want is for him to be happy, healthy, and safe.
He's also had a lot of wonderful experiences, lots of love and joy, the opportunity to travel, and an abundance of silliness! Because that's how we roll. He's learned, hopefully, that there is something to learn from everything that happens in our lives, good and bad. We always have choices and all choices have consequences, be they good or bad. No one does anything to us. We choose what we do and how we react. We control how we feel, no one else does. Ever.
So yeah, 17 years ago today, I woke with cramps. The cat insisted on sitting on my big belly and kneading away. You know, to distract me... He was 5 days "late". I shouldn't be surprised timeliness is not his strong suit these days. I wandered around the house, restless, for a few hours. I remember believing it was actually labor around 10:30 am. Fast forward several hours and at 7:42 pm, I held my newborn son in my arms and my life was forever changed. My heart understanding what unconditional love was for the very first time. I had no idea what was in store for us, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Happy birth day to my Kyle. You are loved more than you can imagine. You have taught your mama more than you can ever know, and I suspect you will continue to do so throughout your life. You quite literally changed the course of mine. I love your wit, your humor, your silliness, and your perspective. I wish when you blow out those candles, all your dreams come true.