I have had many parents over the years, particularly moms, tell me that they literally can’t stand watching their children get older. They seem to feel that with each and every stage their child moves through, something is lost. For some, this is particularly poignant at the Holidays. If you or someone you know feels sadness about the passage of time related to children aging, I aim to give you hope today that all is well!
Noah is eighteen, and in his first year of college, at West Virginia University. Eli is thirteen, and splits custody between myself and his dad. Noah got to come home the Friday before Thanksgiving, much earlier than most of his peers. Since his dad and brother were still in school until halfway through Wednesday, and his friends weren’t back yet, Noah and I had a lot of time together. He didn’t go hide in his room. We discussed financial aid issues. We discussed the benefits of dorm life versus apartment life for next year (his decision needs to be made by December 19th – what???). We got online for an hour and looked at apartments. We took a day and ran errands. We binge watched episodes of “Weeds.”
On Tuesday night, the boys decided “game night” was in order. You know, board games? Like when they were a few years younger. I found myself sitting at the kitchen table playing, of all things, “Apples to Apples.” The difference between playing with this age group instead of say the five to ten crowd is that the players know the big words, and are quite adept at arguing for their choice. I laughed until I cried.
On Wednesday, Noah and I got massages from a friend of mine. I’ve been getting them for ten years, Noah, the last two, and we both agree that a massage that digs the knots out of your back and neck is worth its weight in gold. Sweet baby Jane, a day later and I still had a spot on my back that I couldn’t touch. Thank you Margaret!
Also on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, Noah came to me and asked if we could change the tradition of decorating for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving to that evening, as he and his brother were going to their dads’ Thanksgiving night, and wouldn’t be there. Of course, I said yes. I sat in my executive office chair (nicely padded but faux leather) while my two young men hauled the Christmas tree and seven plastic tubs up from the basement. I watched, half in awe, as they put the Christmas tree together with no help from me, and then spent thirty minutes fluffing it and rearranging the branches. Noah got out the step stool and hung strings of lights throughout the house. My living room, dining room, and kitchen are lit up to the point that you could do surgery in here! I put out the items that went on shelves and counters. But, mostly, I sat back and watched. Watched Eli put the ornaments on the tree, and decide that less was more. He was right. To watch these two work in tandem…. can you kind of see that this might be better than watching a ten and five-year-old fight over Legos?
I made dinner while they decorated, and the only excitement there was that I gave Noah two choices (after all, he’s kind of the guest), and he told me to let Eli choose, as he chose the night before. Such kindness, such unselfishness. He doesn’t see himself as a guest. He’s home.
So, Thanksgiving Eve. The house is decorated; we’re being lulled by the blinky lights. I sat with the boys on the couch and watched “Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving” with them. Eli becomes exhausted and heads to his room for quiet time. Noah and I start watching our 9th episode of “Weeds.” Noah’s phone rings. He is being asked to be designated driver.
Noah is eighteen. He has a legion of friends twenty-one to twenty-five. I don’t know exactly how that happened, but it’s related to sports and his maturity. He’s been designated driver for people since he got his license.
So, Noah gets off the phone after agreeing to be DD, looks at me, and says, “Oh, I’m sorry, I should’ve asked if it was okay to take your car. I normally do this from dad’s house.” I told him it was fine, to be very careful, as there were plenty of drunks on the road. (At least his acquaintances had the brains to arrange for a driver.) Off he goes at 10:45 to take a guy to the bar. He comes back, we finish episode 9 of Weeds, watch episode 10, and start episode 11. At 1:15, he gets the call that somebody is ready to go home. Off he goes. At 2:30 I’m having a stroke. Finally, at 2:45 am he pulls in. The first guy needed to go to Seneca, 20 minutes away. Then he took another 5 people home. Made $50 bucks for 1.5 hours of work. Nobody puked in my car.
I no longer have toddlers in footy pajamas that are overwhelmed by a pile of presents on Christmas morning and end up playing with a box. I no longer have elementary aged children who write letters to Santa, and can’t go to sleep Christmas Eve. Been there, done that, and God willing, I’ll get to do it again someday with grandbabies. What I DO have are two young men who enjoyed their childhood holidays enough to want to relive the best parts of them. Decorating, watching specials on TV, taking time to play board games, wanting Thanksgiving dinner with the extended family.
It is Thanksgiving night, and I am writing this blog. My boys went to their dads two hours ago for a family get-together related to the Steelers game. I am alone in my house, looking at the twinkling lights. I am happy. There is no depression here. My boys had a great week. My babies are certainly not babies anymore, but this “young men” time that I’m experiencing is just as wonderful as those earlier times were. The beauty of this is that now, they CHOOSE to participate. Not only choose, but often initiate the activities – probably out of nostalgia.
On Christmas morning, if my boys don’t wake up to Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls and Orange Rolls coming out of the oven, regardless of whether they are at mom or dad’s house, there will be shock, disbelief, and disappointment. We’ve done it since they were born, because my parents did that with my sister and I. A forty-year tradition. I believe with all of my heart that when my boys have homes and children of their own, there will be fresh rolls coming out of the oven Christmas morning. Children growing up can mean the passing on of family love.
Rocking a baby to sleep is a special, beautiful thing…. but so is sitting at the kitchen table with a thirteen-year-old who is bigger than you, who wants your opinion on whether he should take Honors classes or not. Honestly, the Holy Grail of parenting – teenagers who want to be with you and actively seek your counsel.
Don’t be sad. Each passing year merely brings about new, wonderful stages of parenting. Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season!