"I have a son who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind."--Maya Angelou
I am now faced with all the questions:
- Did I do enough? Did I prepare him? Did I challenge him? Did I nurture him? I know that I loved him with my whole heart; but was it enough?
- How did I scar him? We all carry the scars of our parents' mistakes. What were the wounds that I inflicted that will be tough for him to heal from?
- Is he ready? Can he handle the world? What happens if he doesn't have cell service? Can he use a map?
- Does he understand the world he's entering? The answer there is almost definitely a resounding "no." We talk things out in our family. We use lowered voices. We practice kindness.
In only 23 days, he will turn 18. While the number means he can vote and that my legal responsibility for him ends, it doesn't take into account the fact that he has never held a paying job. He has never had to pay for his own clothing or food (unless it's a quick after-school stop to Panda Express). He has never had to pay a bill or do anything much more difficult than take an exam or navigate his way to a new place using the data that I pay for on the cell phone that I purchased for him. Turning 18 will not make him an adult. And my questions continue:
- Did I coddle him too much?
- Have I made too many of his decisions?
- Will he be lonely? Will he be scared?
In only 38 days, he will graduate from high school. While that rite of passage means that he no longer has to participate in the very thing that has been a solid roadblock to our relationship, I don't know that he is looking at it with anything other than a profound sense of relief. He won't have to hear me nagging. No more conversations about responsibility and homework. No more square peg not fitting in a very round hole. But graduating from high school will not make him an adult.
The questions haunt me:
- Did I push too much?
- Was I wrong about...everything?
And, in only 44 days, my eldest son will enlist. He will join the armed services of the United States, working toward becoming an airman in the United States Air Force. While so many (99%?) of his peers will be enjoying their last summers before college, my son will be running, doing push-ups, experiencing homesickness without contact from home and learning what it means to be an airman. There won't be coddling there. He will probably be lonely. And he will probably be scared. But in the process, he will dig deep. He will find his core strength. And he will do the work that I know he can do, even if it terrifies me at the same time. He will earn a paycheck but at the same time, he will become a part of a brotherhood that I can never know. And he will join his grandfathers, his father and his uncle in service to our country. I have never been prouder. And I have never been so aware of time ticking toward the day when he takes the oath of service to leave his childhood behind.
He will become a man, forging his own path. Far away from me. Beginning only 44 short days from now.
June 19, 2018. I love you, kid. And I'll see you on the other side as a man.