Oh, my baby.
Last week we celebrated Colby’s 12th birthday. His final birthday before he is truly and fully a teenager. This year we move from Caring for your School Age Child: Ages 5-12 to Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall.
I started reading up early. Go figure.
Most years, I spend Colby’s birthday week in equal parts mourning and awe. I look down at what is left of my mom boobs, grateful they did what I needed them to (what 20-year-old college student can afford formula?) and sad they now are slipping away, like dropped eggs on toast, sliding sliding toward the ground. I tearfully flip through old family albums and baby pictures, in awe that we have survived. Neither one of us is in jail (kid or adult) yet, we are functional in that we make it to school most every day and purport to be well-adjusted and contributing human beings. Most of the time. Every year I use this week like most people use the first week of a new year. I think about where we’ve been, what I’ve done well (and not so well) and what I can anticipate for this new year. This year, though, I find myself not sad about the slipping away of Colby’s childhood, but the gradual reduction of my influence. My job is not done, nor will it ever be, but adolescents turn out, not in. The clay is beginning to harden.
Research shows that most children are the people they will become by the time they reach adolescence. This is scary, but it just is. At first, this terrified me. “Fuck!” I thought. “I totally totally fucked this up! Why did I need to move that frequently? Could I have lived longer with his father? Would it have helped?” Then I poured a glass of wine and realized if most of us are okay (therapy bills notwithstanding), my kid’s probably going to be fine. Also, I know that now is not the time to second-guess myself. Repeat – We’re All Okay We’re All Okay We’re All Okay.
I’m needing some armor as we move forward, Colby and Matt and I, into this wild territory of adolescence. Without question, the seven years of middle and high school were the absolute worst of my life. I have a few choice memories that I keep in my pocket like a worry stone. The rest I’ve boxed up and put away until I have enough medication and/or therapists to work on it. Like a circle of hell, those years. I know I’m not alone here. And after a lot of thinking and a lot of xanax, I realize that I have to relinquish the fear that Colby’s will be as dreadful and wrenching and life-altering as mine. Because it might be, or maybe not. Like life, the only part of this I can control is myself, well, except for all the parental controls I’ve put on every electronic device in the house. I’ve got that shit down.
What I can do now is breathe and love and be present.
I can attempt to yell “Just. Put. Your FUCKING BOOTS ON” with less frequency.
I can cook. Because we all know that food = love.
I can drive. He’s gonna need to get places. Then I can buy him a car with the highest safety rating available. And a black box. Maybe not.
I can continue to ask questions even if I know he won’t answer.
I can embrace realistic consequences instead of punitive punishments.
I can say “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” and “You’re right. Let’s talk about this”.
I can start thinking of something really neat to do to him the first time he calls me a “fucking bitch”. Mamas – you cringe, but we need to prepare.
I can do more listening and less talking.
I can breathe and love and be present.
Mad mama love. xoxo.