Today’s guest post is by Jennifer Grant, a columnist and author of four books, including Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family. MOMumental takes readers into the amusing, creative, and taxing process of raising a family—get it for just $2.24.
My son and I sit side by side in the auditorium on “accepted students” day. The stage is empty, save for a podium emblazoned with the university’s seal. Behind it hangs about 40 banners, each lettered with one of the school’s majors: English, chemistry, Chinese, sociology, statistics, and so on. My son stares straight ahead, his eyes wide open, focused.
Triumphant music begins, and current students sprint onto the stage and start tossing T-shirts and stuffed animals at the audience. The university’s president jogs up the steps, stands behind the podium, and congratulates the high-school seniors in attendance for surviving the brutal and selective admissions process. His tone is welcoming, celebratory.
“It’s like you won the Hunger Games,” I whisper. My son laughs.
My mind flashes to another day 12 years before, when I sat beside my son in an elementary-school gym. The principal told us how excited he was to meet the incoming kindergartners and their parents. His tone was welcoming, celebratory. My serious little son stared straight ahead, eyes wide open, focused.
Afterward, the two of us walked out onto the playground and stood at the tetherball pole, chatting and hitting the ball back and forth before walking into town for lunch. He ordered grilled cheese, fries, and lemonade.
I didn’t take pictures of my son at the kindergarten orientation or in the restaurant. A dozen years ago, proud, nervous parents like me weren’t armed with smartphones. But I did take mental pictures that day. I knew it was a momentous one and remember thinking, “So it begins.”
I knew that when we crossed over to the other side of his school years in 12 years’ time, he would go off to college and then depart into adulthood. He’d still be very much himself and would always be my child, but he’d be his own person. Things would shift, and we’d have to recalibrate what it meant to be in relationship with each other.
Sometimes, lately, when my kids are engaged in a backyard soccer game or sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast before school or during any of a hundred other everyday moments, I take focused, mental pictures. I want to remember every detail of the four of them together. I know that a chapter is ending. Next year, much of the time, there will only be three of them.
And when I post a picture of my son and his younger siblings these days, I sometimes use the hashtag “#sunrise/sunset.” The lighthearted phrase masks more complicated feelings of loss.
In Fiddler on the Roof, at their daughter Tzeitel’s wedding, Tevya and Golde sing:
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?
Swiftly flow the days
When children are very young, days can feel anything but “swift” or “flowing.” A mother who spends the day perched on the edge of the bathtub, trying to entreat her toddler to use the toilet or waiting up when a child is home much later than expected, feels quite the opposite. We slowly trudge through many days and nights.
But then, suddenly they’re grown, itching to be independent, almost ready to leave home. These people who used to count on us to tie their shoes and answer all of their questions and cross them over to the other side of the street suddenly face enormous decisions—including where they’ll spend their college years.
After the meeting in the university auditorium, my son and I stop for lunch in the student center. Standing beside me, taller than me now, he orders a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. He fills a glass with lemonade.
I take a deep breath, and I remind myself that this—this growth, this health, this imminent independence—was always the goal and eventuality. And although what I feel is a kind of grief, it’s a clean and untangled one.
Things are as they should be.
* * *
Get more from Grant in her amusing and relatable book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family—download it today for just $2.24!
Today’s guest post is by Jennifer Grant, a columnist and author of four books, including Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family. MOMumental takes readers into the amusing, creative, and taxing process of raising a family—get it for just $2.24. My son and I sit […]