… before everything changes

Flashback to over 2 years ago….

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I’ve just returned from a long weekend trip with my 15-soon-to-be-16-year-old son.  It was just the two of us.

We’ve made several of these trips over the years, but none before had felt so IMG_3714*delicate* – like a beautiful soap bubble, reflecting watercolor-like images of us.  Knowing it would probably be the last – or at least the penultimate – trip before his life changes dramatically: getting his driver’s license, then getting a job, then going to college….

Our trips would drive others mad.  We don’t plan anything. We pack books, and crazy card games, comfy clothes.  We don’t set alarms, we don’t make reservations (except for a room).  We pack swimsuits, just in case.  We might load the bikes onto the car rack like we did for this trip even though the weather forecast was icky (and it turns out we never did get to ride them). We buy junk food. We watch movies. We sleep until we wake up. We talk. We’re quiet together.

We drive, and drive, and drive a long way from our home for these trips. Once we even flew. The unspoken rule is that it needs to be a place on the water.  Any body of water.  And it needs to be just the two of us.

These trips don’t happen every year, but as he gets older I want a bajillion more of them! What makes them so special to me is that he WANTS to go. Not only that, Z is always the one who brings it up.  And he made my heart sing when he asked a month ago if he and I could take one of our trips.

This year, Z did ALL the driving.  The six hours up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, in and around the quaint towns, and back home again. I must have looked to my left at the young man driving a thousand times that trip, and all I could think was “It used to be me driving him around…”

Z and I have always been close. It’s been the two of us for most of his young life.  I am his constant. No matter what or who comes and goes from his life, he knows he is stuck with me.  I’ve made sure he knows that. Always and forever.

He still talks to me about all manner of things going on in his life, including crushes and periods of uncertainty. He still asks me questions about sex, and what girls like best about boys. He listens carefully and intently when we talk about “no means no for anyone saying it” and that mutual respect is a key to any healthy relationship.  He listens and asks more questions when I tell him integrity is the quality I value most in my friendships and other relationships.  He asks what integrity envelopes, and we talk about what it means when someone calls him a “young man of integrity”.  I tell him first of all, I think it may be the greatest compliment anyone can ever give him.  Then I tell him I hope he always strives to be a man of integrity.  Always and forever.

But those conversations are for at home. On our trips, it’s nothing heavy, nothing earth-shattering. We catch up with the little things. He asks about the book I’m reading; I ask about how everyone at the lunch table is doing. We talk about music. We talk about cars (well, he talks, I listen). Sometimes we don’t talk at all and are just *together*.   We play card games that devolve into mild smack talk and laughter so hearty our sides-ache-our-eyes-water-and-we-can’t-breathe-together. We breathe. We just are together.

Z is an adventurous kid. He loved preschool the moment I dropped him off. When I mentioned summer sleep away camp one spring, thinking he might want to talk roots and wingsabout it later, he asked how soon he could leave. He was 8 years old (fortunately, the camp we chose had an opening that summer). It’s 3-weeks long and 7 hours away. He’s gone every summer but one ever since. He’s a genuinely nice person, and makes friends easily – both boys and girls. His friends are nice people, too, and as they all get older (and get driver’s licenses) they are off doing more things away from us parents. He is working on earning money for his French Club trip to Paris next spring – he’ll make it to France before I do. He has no qualms about going away to college. He is already planning his semester studying in Europe. And he talks about living abroad to work on his graduate degrees.

All of these milestones, all of these “venturing outings” are amazing and awesome to him. He knows he’s lucky to get to do a lot of the things he does (and I will strive to make sure he can). He has no fear. I love watching him spread his wings and fly!

It also breaks my heart a little bit more each time he flies a little further.

This fall he’ll be heading into his junior year.  God help me. I’m not ready for that and I know it. As long as he’s ready though, it’ll all be good.

And if I get one more trip – one more lazy, perfect trip with Z before he flies off to find his future, I’ll be thrilled. In the meantime, I have all the memories of trips past to cherish. And if this was the last of them, then it will be enough.

Always and forever.

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Today ~

It was, indeed, the last trip just the two of us took.  Life happened, and he got a job, and a girlfriend, and more AP classes, and and and and….  But I was honest about that trip being “enough” if it was truly to be the last…  I was also honest about wanting more.  So maybe somewhere down the road we’ll have one more trip, just the two of us… before everything changes again.

The end is nigh

Last week, Z’s high school graduation announcements arrived.

Holy cow.

Yes, I remember ordering them, of course.  But now they’ve arrived.  And I’m staring at them thinking: “Already?”

Already.

So begins the winding up of Z’s senior year:  the last season he’ll play tennis for school has begun; the last field trip permission slip has been signed; the last AP class exams are coming up in a few weeks.  The “last” everything from his public school education is coming to a close in less than 10 weeks.

And a fantastic education it’s been!  I thank all of the teachers, administrators, support staff, coaches, and all of the other unsung heroes who contribute to our district’s amazing and well-rounded education offered to our children.  From kindergarten to senior high school, Z has had an awesome experience and has learned from some of the best teachers around.  I will genuinely miss having a child in public schools — the community I have been privileged to have been a part of for 13 years.  But it’s time to move on…

I published the following at the beginning of Z’s senior year.  It is every bit as relevant now, maybe more so.

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As R.E.M. so eend of the world t-shirtloquently stated: It’s the end of the world as we know it.  But I don’t know if I feel fine… You see, it’s the beginning of the end of the beginning of the world as we know it here at our house: Z started his senior year in high school last week.

As many parents have discovered before me:  holy cow.

We work so hard to give them roots and wings, and then the ungrateful little ragamuffins want to actually use those wings?  Wait, that wasn’t in the manual…

It’s a time wrapped up in mixed emotions and the “lasts”: “last” school clothes shopping day; “last”school supply shopping list; “last” first day of school; “last” school picture; “last” first day of school dinner out;  “last”…   Not that he won’t need things at college or eat, but he’ll do that wherever he lands.  By himself and with new people.

proud momI’m so proud of him — he’s achieved so much, and challenged himself; made such good friends who are good people; he’s walked the walk and done the work to apply to colleges.  He’s a good person.  Kind.  Intelligent.  Healthy.  Strong.  Talented.  Funny.

But I feel resentment.  I resent that the time went by so, so fast.  Why didn’t anyone tell me?  (oh yeah, they did — I just chose to not believe them).  Infant to toddler; to preschool then kindergarten; then onward to elementary school, and then off to middle school.  It all rolled along just as it should have.

And then we hit some kind of time warp-wormhole because high school is just about over and it can’t be because it just started!  What is it about these last 3 or 4 years that just pick up speed and charge ahead, careening towards graduation day???

I cop to some guilt about being excited to have an “empty nest”, too… usually right after I cry a little bit about how much I’ll miss my son.  If you try to understand how you can swing so easily between feelings, you’ll lose (what’s left of) your mind.  I don’t pretend to understand it; I’m just along (semi-reluctantly) for the ride.empty nest

Until next Friday, Friends.  Cheers!

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