He’s here, I said to myself, the moment I felt him slip from my body and the doctor said ‘It’s a boy’ before they whisked him away from me to clear his lungs from the traumatic start to his life. My body tried hard to reject him that last week of pregnancy, tried to rebel against him but medicine persevered and he slipped from me and straight in to my heart with his first feeble cry.
I was gone, lost in a love that I had no idea about. It was four in the morning, April 19, 1994 and I was utterly exhausted, sick and surrounded by a medical team that was caring for both of us. But I reached for him and they finally laid him on my chest, lungs cleared, perfect and pink. His tiny eyes narrowed when I spoke to him and he looked at me hard as if to say ‘Oh! That’s who I’ve been hearing all this time!’ and I felt him sigh, and relax against me. ‘You’re mine. and I’m yours.’ From that foggy moment on, he’s been in my heart.
And now, he’s 18. At some point in time, this was adulthood. But not now, and not because I want him to stay with me, to never leave me, to not grow up or move on or not need me. This point, this stepping stone has been the goal from that long ago moment that he was laid on my chest, instead of within my body, and both of us have been working for this jumping off since the moment he emerged. He was a life I was given, an honor bestowed on me to raise him. My almighty Father trusted me with this one life and I’ve given him all of me. The lines between us have gotten longer with each passing year, but that tether will remain, a bond of blood and a lifetime.
I’m at this turning point as a parent, without guilt or remorse over what did or didn’t happen in the last 18 years. I am an imperfect human being, and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I’ve raised my voice, showed my wrath, disappointment and despair to him. I’ve let him know when I’m unhappy with him, but never ever in those long years have I ever let go of the love I have for him. I’ve been clear to his heart that his choices can upset me, his words can hurt me and his actions can disappoint, but it never ever changes the fact that I love him with all my heart, that he can’t do anything that will make me love him less. This he knows. And it makes forgiveness easy.
I’ve held him when he’s needed it, I’ve let him go when he wants. I’ve fed him well and taught him life skills and given him a foundation and a sense of humor. I’ve shown him boundaries so there’s no surprises later in life. I’ve taught him to walk and to run and to play on his own, not as a matter of pride, but as necessity, as his autonomy and ability to walk away from me is vital for a full and rich life. I’ve worked outside the home, and I’ve been a stay at home parent. I’ve taught him to stand against the odds, to face the giants, to walk away from a fight, to voice his beliefs and needs and wants. I’ve left him in the care of providers who’ve given a piece of their heart to him, so I won’t lose a part of me. He’s been a beloved member of my family, surrounded by loving aunts and uncles from birth, then, blessedly, a new family at the age of eight full of cousins, more aunts, uncles and a loving grandmother. I’ve raised him alone for eight years, then with a loving Dad for the last ten. I have no guilt over any of it. Not a moment of mommy remorse that I couldn’t be there for him every single moment, that I didn’t do enough. No one can. But his tether remains, as it always will. Nothing I’ve done, or didn’t do will ever change that.
He’s on the brink of something big, this boy of mine. He could do anything, and everything. I have no idea what’s in store for his life, but I know he’s destined for some amazing works. I can see it blossoming under the surface. And I look back on the moments of confidence that have built over this life of his, and of mine and I see the stepping stones to the here and now. He’s on the springboard, ready to jump, glancing back over his shoulder for me, making sure. I’ve held his tiny hand as he walked, ran, biked, skated and leapt from tree branches, the side of a pool and off the edge of a boat into the ocean. All these moments mirroring a final jump, the last time his fingers will slip through mine before he strides ahead.
He’s 18. A man, but a child. An adult to society, but still in need of care and direction. He doesn’t need me all the time, or even most of the time, but he needs the presence of me, and he’ll come and stand nearby, glancing at me, seeking me. I know these signs, and I stop, focus and connect until he walks away again, another moment of that confidence carved in stone. He does need me, but so much less than yesterday, last week, the past 17 years. What he needs now is to just know. Know that I’m there, whenever. Wherever. However.