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Monday, February 15, 2016

Growing up, growing pains

Last night as I went to bed I got a text from my son telling me to look under my pillow.  He had written me a letter for Valentines day.  My heart is aching today and my eyes are dripping still.  My middle...second...ugh I hate those labels.  My youngest son, there that's better.  My youngest son and I have a long history of letters.  I have them all.  Whenever he did something wrong, got punished, or had deep emotions he couldn't bare to speak I'd get a letter under my door.  It became a running joke as he got older.  Whether or not a specific situation was going to warrant a letter.  This one was the all time top heart breaker.  After I read it I went into his room sobbing.  Apparently loud enough for my oldest son to hear and come upstairs to make sure I was ok.  When I told him that I was fine, that his brother had written me a letter he smiled, knowing.  He said "what did you do, take away his Nintendo DS".  We all laughed at that one.

My cream filling son is going to college next year.  It's not going to be easy.  I am in denial.....so is he.  As close as I was and am to my oldest, when he went to college he had spent the year before breaking away from me.  I accepted it, I knew it was the natural progression of life.  But my younger son?  No.  That's not happening.  We can't separate from each other.  It's nearly impossible.  He is busy all the time.  Work. Baseball.  His amazing girlfriend.  School.  But yet, he always has to make sure he has one on one time with me.  Texts me all the time.  I wrote a book about him.Beyond the Immediate.  It is a story about his battle with cancer when he was 10.  Our relationship has never been the same since that time.  He and I have a bond that no one else can begin to comprehend.  He became my hero, and apparently, I became his.  We grew up together in that hospital.  I was forever changed and so was he.  I began my journey of self discovery and it appears that he observed the whole thing with the intent to do the same.  People tell you that you can't be your children's friend.  I totally disagree.  I've been their friend since they were born.  I was their first friend.  They need to know you have their backs, no matter what!  I'm lucky.  My kids never disrespected me when they were little, even though I was their friend.  They knew I was their mom too.  17 was the age when things changed with my oldest, he began to look at me in a way that I believe most teenagers look at their parents.  It's normal, it's the natural progression of them leaving the nest, preparing to separate.  My youngest son has never looked at me that way.  Still.  He still thinks I hung the moon.  I am waiting.  I keep waiting.  I don't want to be shocked when and if it happens.  But, in my heart, I don't think it will.  We've been to war together, a war against cancer and the rest of the world.  That changes things, don't you think?  Not to mention I have been all over the state and a few others in pursuit of his baseball dreams.  I've sat in 120 degrees and as cold as 30.  He doesn't forget that.  He remembers the car rides, the laughter, the tears, the dancing, the singing, he remembers it all.  How blessed am I?  The thought of not being at every game next year when he's in college breaks my heart.  It breaks his too, I found out.  He's going to school 2500 miles away.  Thankfully, we are moving closer to him.  He'll be 500 miles away instead.

Here's the secret, I think, to my relationship with my kids.  First of all, God has blessed me FAR more than I deserve.  He has entrusted me with 3 incredible souls to raise and I will be eternally grateful for those gifts.  I think, I always tried to be the parent I wish I had.   I always felt safe with my parents, like no matter what it would be ok. I tried to give that to my kids.  I always knew I was loved, no matter what.  I definitely gave them that.  But, what I didn't have when I was growing up was someone who didn't mock the silly things that kids worry about.  The things that we, as adults know are trivial.  I wish I had someone who would have empathized with those silly little things and explain that in actuality it would all be ok.  I did that for my kids.  I tried to never make them feel insignificant.  I think I succeeded.  I remember when I was 13 I was so upset about growing up.  I didn't want to do it, I was terrified.  I wanted things to stay exactly as they were.  I was crying at the table with my mother and my sister and they were smirking.  I locked myself in the bathroom and I wrote on a piece of paper that I was afraid to grow up and I passed it under the door.  (now I know where my son got his note passing genes ;)  ).  They could not contain their laughter.  I was heart broken.  They tried to stop laughing and talk to me but it was too late.  I was never going to trust them with my deepest thoughts again.  The walls around my heart started building that day I think.  Probably before, but that was a significant time I still feel the pain when I remember it.   I was determined to never let my kids feel that.  I guess what I'm saying is that, as a parent, you have to treat your children as PEOPLE....not subordinates, or less than you, as people!  With compassion and understanding.  Always think, how would I feel if someone treated me like that?  I didn't always get it right, I'm human, but I never stopped trying.  Another thing I think a lot of parents don't do is share their mistakes with their kids.  I am brutally honest with them.  They know all the screw ups I made.  The things I did that I wouldn't want them to do in high school.  It made me real to them.  It made them connect with me, not look at me as the enemy but as someone who understands.  I have in turn be trusted with their secrets.  Things most parents suspect about their kids but never know for sure.  They talk to me about it all. I am the type of person who believes in full disclosure with all relationships in my life, why would my kids be any different?  Parents don't want their kids to lie, yet they go crazy on them with lectures and dissappointed faces when they are told the truth, no wonder they keep things to themselves.  It's tough, I'm not saying it's not.  But I can tell you honestly, it's worth it.  The bond you create with your child will be worth it.  They are only kids for 18 years.....they will be your adult friends for a lifetime.  Remember that.....its all part of growing up.  For us and for them.  It's beyond the immediate.
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