The other day Jenn and I were driving through a very familiar intersection close to our home as my wife points out “Hey, there are your kids.” She points to the white Malibu going west through the intersection as we headed east, in the car are my son at the wheel and my daughter riding shotgun. We honk and wave. They look back in delayed response to who was trying to get their attention. Sam is my son who will soon be turning 18 and is a Senior in high school. Ella is my 14-year-old daughter and a freshman.
A few minutes later Jenn noted that it was weird to unexpectedly see the kids driving around. It was not our custody weekend so it is not unusual that we would not know what they were up to. I immediately flashed back to driving to school with my brother in the morning, the car smelling of Drakkar cologne as 80’s rap music filled my ears. I wondered what Sam and Ellas conversations were when they drove around together. I like the idea of them having that time. It has always been my hope that my kids would be friends as well as sibling.
As Jenn and I continued to run our errands, the Kahlil Gilbran quote came to mind-
” They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
I got to thinking about the concept of my body being a tunnel, a breeze way, a pass-through on the way to Life. It was oddly liberating to think about. I have always believed that the children belong to themselves not me nor anyone else. I am responsible for them as a parent so that is tricky navigation – parenting and guidance versus autonomy as a human. With Sam, we are leaning more into the autonomous human part of our relationship. I have been a parent since I was 24 (I include pregnancy), I am 43. That is most of my adult life. I am not excited for him to leave home but I am excited for him to go explore life. I am hopeful that I feel the same when my daughter chooses to move on into the bigger world.
Although I have not liked many things about having split custody of my children for the past seven years, one benefit has been a slow letting go process. When the time comes, I believe the empty nest syndrome will not be as pronounced as it would have been if I had my kids full-time. Split custody was not easy to get used to but eventually I did get used to it. It did feel like a mini empty nest as it was, but I was able to take that time and find myself again. A silver lining in a silver lining.
Many adults have raised these kids. I know it was not always easy for them to have so many eyes and voices but we all did a good job. We have some pretty amazing humans as kids. As the parental adults, I am appreciative to all the different personalities that the kids have been raised by. We are all very different in our own ways and we all have offered something valuable to the kids.
Tomorrow Sam will turn 18. For some reason the age of 18 has been a beacon or land mark ever since I started this journey of parenting. I didn’t think anything magical would happen at 18. I knew my job would not be done although the job of parent has morphed so many times over the past 18 years, I know it will just morph again and again as more years pass. When Sam was about to turn 16, I remember having sad emotions about Sam growing up and moving on. I started to grieve losing the little boy I knew and that bled into grieving having to let him go one day. At 16 his body was changing more into an adult body. He was gaining a lot more independence with driving and having a car. It was a big growth spurt. As we near the 18 year mark since joined us on this planet, I am so excited to continue to get to know the amazing adult that our son is becoming. His most recent growth spurt was not on the outside, but more from the inside. He is a really cool guy. I know I am biased as his mom, but he is a smart, unique, talented, curious human. I have been very thankful for the conversations we have been having as I sit in my chair recovering.
This is not what I thought my life would look like when my son was to turn 18. Second marriage, gay, recovering from cancer. I am very thankful for the twists and turns in my journey and I am very happy where I have landed. Life is not usually what you expect it to be. Sometimes it gets better and sometimes it gets harder. Sometimes we have control over change and sometimes change chooses us whether we like it or not. It all comes down to how you choose to handle it. Attitude is a choice. I hope my kids have learned that. Some days it will take all the effort in the world to step outside but it is still your choice to step outside and see the sun. The past few days that small feat, of stepping outside has been difficult for me, but with the help of my wife I did get outside even if just for a short time.
There are many changes coming in the next year, many will be good and some will be challenging. Life just is. Life feels like a river. There are many calm smooth spots, some bumpy sections and sometimes I am holding on to my ass trying to stay on top of the rapids. All of these will come and go and come and go again. The constant is my choice to not get swept underwater, remembering to be in the moment even when surrounded by the chaos of the rapids.
Many lessons of letting go have come to me these past few years. I feel ready to watch my son become a young adult whatever that means. It may not change much for a while and it might change dramatically sooner than later. Whatever is in his path, I am excited for him. I love you Buddha Monkey. Thank you for being an amazing teacher. You are a gift.
Random side note: Through my whole surgery, recovery and chemo someone has been randomly and anonymously dropping off flowers at our front door. No note or anything to lead us to know who this flower fairy is. I wanted to say here that it has been lovely and wonderful to receive this gift. You are appreciated flower fairy and maybe when all this is over we can thank you in person. Just a reminder to myself that small acts of kindness can have big impact – Pay it forward. Thank you.