If I could be granted only one wish, it would be to go back in time, to when my boys were babies, and hold each one in my arms for a while.
I was 16 years old when I gave birth to my first son. Too young by modern standards, but that didn’t stop me from ignoring the voices that whispered words like abortion and adoption in my ears.
From the moment I set eyes on the perfectly formed, 16 week old fetus on the ultrasound monitor, I knew there was no turning back.
I was in love with my baby boy, and his father, and I was young and naïve enough to believe that our family would be together forever.
Fast-forward 30 years. This month my son will enter his third decade. It’s a defining moment for this 46 year old woman who can still remember what it felt like to be that 16 year old girl.
I’m on my second marriage, which I’m grateful has lasted over 20 years. I have four sons total. The youngest is eight. He often reminds me of his oldest brother.
Both have strong personalities and wills. They are extroverts to the extreme, natural athletes, have good senses of humor, and like to have fun.
Both know how to push my buttons. Easy and breezy are not how I’d describe them. I don’t even want to know how they’d describe me.
As mothers, we do our best. But as I reflect on my mothering then and now, I know that my best has changed over the years.
As a young mother, I was grounded in the here and now. I didn’t give much thought to the future beyond what I should cook for dinner that night. Weekends were for fun, hanging out with other couples, picnics with family.
My days had more structure back then, probably because I didn’t work. My son had his little routine, and so I had mine. I admit some days felt boring.
When he started preschool, I didn’t worry about which one to send him to. By then I was divorced, waitressing, broke; I sent him to Head Start.
Bedtime was 7:30 PM firm throughout the elementary years, even in summer.
As he grew older and tested the limits, I became stricter, until one day, when he was 15, he said that living with me was like being in prison and I was the warden. I let him move in with his father.
Nowadays, getting to work, putting dinner on the table, and helping with homework is about all the structure I can manage. Weekends are mostly for cleaning, grocery shopping, and doing laundry.
My youngest son goes to parochial school because the public schools in our town stink. His bedtime is 8:30 PM on school nights, 10:00 PM on weekends. In summer, anything goes.
When he tests the limits, my husband and I are usually too tired to fight him, and he’s only eight. God help us when he becomes a teenager.
As an older mother, I’ve learned a few things:
- Kids grow fast; cherish each moment with them.
- Sometimes boring is a blessing.
- Remain in the present, but plan for the future.
- Pick your battles, and even lose some if it means you win the war. This includes working through marital problems for the sake of the family.
- Letting go is one of the hardest and bravest things you can do as a parent.
- If you run your house like a prison, the inmates will revolt.
My oldest son watched me grow up. My youngest will watch me grow old. Such is the story when you have children 22 years apart.
Happy 30th birthday, Joshua! I love you.