My firstborn son is fifteen years old today. My giant, funny, clever, handsome, foulmouthed and slightly hairy boy has walked fifteen summers on this earth, and I have been his mother for pretty much the same length of time. I don't remember when, during this mother-son journey, he stopped reaching for my hand, or when I stopped trying to hold onto his.
Today, on his birthday, he told me that he thought I was probably a pretty bad parent but I was a good person.I guess I'm okay with that.
It was the last Thursday in August, 1995, very early in the morning, when I felt a popping sensation, and a second later the bed flooded with amniotic fluid, nine weeks before my due date. First in the hospital, and then at home, I fought hard to keep him safely growing and maturing inside of me for as long as possible. Of course, fighting to stay pregnant actually meant lying very quietly with no underwear on thinking optimistic thoughts, while fluid leaked out of me and other people did everything.
Perhaps that set the tone for my current approach to parenting, because things did work out in the end. I stayed pregnant for three more weeks, enough time for a little more growing (no kidding, he was born at 34 weeks gestation and weighed over 7 pounds!) and a couple of steroid shots to force his lungs to mature. And with a lot of help from some fine professionals, he survived the apnea and the reflux and the jaundice and the tube feedings - and came home with us, 100% healthy and breastfeeding, when he was three weeks old.
Fifteen years later he's somehow learned to bathe and dress himself, buckle up his own seatbelt, get and keep some pretty amazing friends, play ukulele and bass and badminton, clean his room, cook eggs and ramen noodles, and sometimes even get a little homework done. And get this: apparently he is fluent in French, though I have never heard him speak it. I guess I shouldn't be really surprised to learn this since he's been educated in French since kindergarten. But I'm not really sure how he learned all this stuff; after all I'm the type of mom mom who was more than willing to let his daycare provider toilet train him (which she did in one day, damn her). And I certainly didn't teach him French.
To my credit, I WAS the one (along with the dad, of course) who drove him to school and all the various lessons, and I did administer the ramen-making lessons and help him perfect all the hilarious accents and characters he entertains us with. And I made sure that he had a decent lunch and clean underwear, and (hopefully) the security of knowing he was loved unconditionally. And I will probably continue to do those things for as long as he wants me to.
But rides and hugs and comedy coaching aside, I do sometimes feel like he's really raised himself and found his own way so far; that all I've really done was try to keep him as safe I could while he grew and matured. Is that the wayis with most other kids - I don't know.
But he's heading into the teenage minefield now and probably needs a good mother more than he ever did, but we have ventured so far from the land of playground squabbles and how to boil water, and I'm completely lost. I want so badly to take his hand and guide him through this dangerous time, but honestly I'm not sure I even know which way to go.