I was sitting on the dark non descript seat of the school bus, front row, of course, taking the practice ride with my son who was about to embark on his first great adventure. Kindergarten. I too would be starting my own adventure of sorts, letting him out of my sight and delivering him to the hands of public education via a yellow school bus. I looked to my right and saw the same nervous look in the eyes of a tiny blonde woman who was sitting next to her blonde son and we made eye contact. Kind of a knowing relief that we both seemed to be the geeky moms not really looking forward to releasing our children just yet. We made some small talk, introduced the kids and just like that I made my first kindergarten mom friend.
That was sixteen years ago and the kids are still excellent friends and my son, Michael just turned twenty one. A milestone of an age, way more loaded with feelings then the age of one, ten, sixteen or eighteen. Even though his dad, Dave, and I still fully support him as he makes his way through his final junior year of college there is a strong significance to twenty one. It is celebratory, meaningful, filled with doors opening and doors closing. Truly an adult and his life is pretty much out of our hands now. The transition to twenty one feels both energizing and sad for me as his mom, though. It brings up everything before. The kid parties, the trips, the stages of growth, the traumatic events and their losses as well as the celebrations. Everything. Like a full life rewind. Did we do a good job? What will his future be like? Will he get married and have children, will he travel the world, what job lies ahead? I can hear the soundtrack of Doris Day belting out her famous song, Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be. Past and future thoughts stir like a simmering pot of possibilities. Before twenty one, they were just little popping thoughts, but now that the time is here, he is closer in age to thirty then he is to ten. Lots can happen from now until then. And it feels strange to be the happy and satisfied mother of a well adjusted twenty one year old young man with the world as his oyster.
I am really proud of him, but also really proud of me because this great parental experiment as so many of us know could have gone terribly wrong. He made it, lots of kids don’t make it to twenty one and this alone brings me to my knees in prayer. Based on my own life experience, I am grateful for the lessons my past taught me though because I really believe it could have gone either way, surely. Luck of the draw? I don’t think so. I think, actually I know, that I was a conscious parent as much as I was able to be. Dave was brought up with a set of values making him a great example to me as a parent. This coupled with some great friends, like the small blonde woman on the bus that day, Kerry, and many other kindergarten moms I am still friendly with today who were also strong and grounded parents helped me along the path of being a better parent.
Now as I watch the celebratory drinking that naturally rears its ugly head towards my son, I find myself with a whole new set of worries. You are taking an Uber, right? Remember the conversations we have had about alcohol and the family history as you find your way through the maze, I find myself repeating. Just because you are twenty one now doesn’t mean that you should be buying alcohol for anyone who is not. I remind him like I used to say look both ways before you cross the street, like he is five again and he needs to hear this instruction.
We go out to eat and he orders a glass of Rioja and a dish of venison, he tries the foie gras. Though he is quiet, he is polite, well mannered, he knows how to carry himself, he is well traveled and observant. I like this about him. I like watching my son be the man he had turned into. I know that every single day I get to have him around me is a gift because frankly he can leave anytime. He has a house in Narragansett off campus he shares with three other boys that is near the beach; he doesn’t have to stay home with his parents, but he does. Maybe he is bored, but he doesn’t show it, he shows up for dinner, he says yes when I ask him to go to breakfast and he walks with me as I traipse around town stopping in the shops to say hi to some store owner friends. We love each other, yes, but we genuinely like each other’s company and of all of the surprises of parenting, this one I would say is my favorite. We like each other, enjoy each other. Whether it is just being in the house, me downstairs him upstairs, or going to dinner with Dave and our old friends from my old neighborhood, there is an ease between all of us that makes me take a big satisfied sigh. No one knows what the next twenty one years will bring. This first twenty one has been an excellent start though.
Happiest of Birthdays my son.
I love you.