My mission, when I accepted it nearly 17 years ago, was to raise first one and then (SURPRISE!) two kids. My objective in life had shifted from writing the All American Novel destined to change the world to turning these two drooling tiny little miniature people into giving, caring, and productive members of society. It was my goal, my purpose in life to make sure that they considered others before themselves; that they understood to try and help to make the world a better place; that when the time came, they appreciated my teachings enough to make sure I ended up in the good kind of nursing home… you know… the kind that puts cinnamon in the applesauce.
This week, I blinked to find that, for one of the boys, that ride is almost over. Nick will be 17 this year, just one more year before he’s “paroled into the real world”. Those are his words, not mine. A lesser mom might be concerned that phrasing like that would think that son meant life with me was equal to living in jail. For the record, somehow, someway, I actually seem okay with that.
But I digress.
In one way or another, I really do try to spend one on one time with each kid. Even though they don’t know the torture of having six siblings (said lovingly knowing each of the six siblings, maybe even parents will, at some point, read this) the boys seem to think that having a single brother is one brother too many, and have each, over the years, developed their own way of standing solo in the spotlight.
Somehow, with Nick, our one-on-one time has transitioned into mini-family meetings of sorts, truth moments, an opportunity for a big brother to be a young man, without fear of recrimination. In all honesty, the fact that it is more often than not happened in public places has helped save his life a time or three.
Nick likes lunch out without his kid brother tagging along. This week’s lunch told me that as a parent – my mission thus far a success. Without aid of lectures, life lessons, or long strolls down my own questionable teenage past, Nick ran this lunch, and with an oddly comforting insight into what his future may hold.
We talked about school. He (FINALLY) acknowledged that perhaps he could try a little harder. Having one friend about to graduate, and the threat of mandatory summer school hanging over his head like the shadow of Damocles’ sword… he conceded that maybe just maybe, finishing his high school career in a charter school would be a better plan. Not unlike that first time you realize that your parents are people too, it is quite surreal to watch your child make a grown up decision all on his own, and knowing that he means it.
We talked about girls. For the record, as a single mom, I’ve had waaaaaaay more than my fair share discussions as to whether I think Jennifer Aniston is hotter than Zooey Deschanel. We talked about life after school… first time jobs and plans for life outside of a regimented schedule. He knew that perhaps cleaning up popcorn after his friends watched a movie wouldn’t be the most fun thing to do, so he axed his original first choice of working at the movie theater. That he would spend a great amount of time outside in a state when it was 116 degrees in the summer took another job out of the running as well. Surprisingly, he was unafraid of physical labor… but only if it meant staying inside an air conditioned building.
Overall health, happiness, and goals were discussed as well. But no matter the topic, there was something humbling in watching my child grow up, make grown up decisions, and hold an adult conversation right before my very eyes.
Not to worry, he proved he is for now, still my little boy when immediately upon returning home, he sat down on the couch and raised his arms until the living room cleared out asking, “oh, did I forget to put deodorant on today?”, made an entire process out of rewinding a commercial containing a girl in a bikini, and asked if it were okay if watermelon flavored Popsicles counted as the fruit portion of his daily diet.
So… baby steps I guess is the thing to remember. Lots and lots of baby steps.
As for my overall goal to change the world via my children… well… we’ll count this lunch as a mid-term exam of sorts. Yeah, I’m passing, and more importantly, he is passing, but this was just the halfway mark in his life. There are still so many more ways he is going to have to prove himself once he no longer has me looking over his shoulder. Until then, I’m okay to just sit, and watch, and marvel at the miracle of… what? You thought I’d say life? Too cliché… but it is a marvel to watch my baby boy transform into an adult.
What about you guys, how do you feel while watching your kids grow up before your eyes? Is there one time or incident that made you feel like they were, at least halfway, to adulthood?
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Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler