Years or seconds – same thing

Posted Aug 30 2010, 9:34 am in

There’s a car commercial on TV where a dad rattles off a list of safety measures to a little girl who can’t see over the steering wheel. At the end of the commercial, we learn the little girl is really all grown up but the dad still sees her as his baby.

That’s EXACTLY what I am experiencing right now. On Saturday, I dropped my first-born son off at college.

Here is what my son actually looks like.
This was taken in June. High School
graduation. (in case the cap & gown
threw you.)
And here is how he is in my heart. This
portrait was done to capture the insane
love I felt for this little guy. He’d just
learned to crawl and we had to literally
sit on top of him to snap this shot. I have
another one like this with Son #2.

Robbie was five months old. I was.... ah, not.

My mother warned me during my first pregnancy. “You have never felt love like this before. Nothing even comes close.”  She was right. From the moment the plus sign appeared on the test, my perspective shifted. I went without chocolate (Yep. I really did.) No medication. No caffeine. No alcohol.  Rob was born at nine pounds, ate like a baby moose, pooped like an adult moose and now he’s eighteen and I’m supposed to be “done” with him.

Uh uh. Sorry. Ain’t happening.

Sure, I knew I’d fall hopelessly in love with a baby of my own. But what nobody ever told me, what the What to Expect books don’t adequately cover, is that having your own baby is false advertising! He’s not mine, he never was. He belongs to himself. I just got to borrow him for oh, eighteen years. Having your own baby goes beyond merely raising a functional member of society. It’s performing thoracic surgery on yourself. It’s reaching in to your own chest cavity and splitting your own heart into pieces – keeping one for you and cheerfully handing one over to your child. The piece that goes to the baby works just fine. But mine is left exposed, not just worn on my sleeve, but outside of my body. It beat harder, faster, when that baby ran for the ungated stairs.  It aches when he aches, it bled when his friends banded together to bully him and it comes to a complete stop whenever he’s injured. (Which is often. Thirteen stitches in his leg two months ago.) It sits, stuck in my throat, every time he asks for the car keys.  It begs me, screaming and pounding on my rib cage, to turn the car around as I drive away, watching him wave in the rear view mirror and it wonders just how it’s supposed to continue beating on its own.

I know this is the circle of life. (Cue Elton John here.) I did what I was supposed to do. Raised him with morals and standards, encouraged his dreams, sacrificed to make sure he got the opportunity to realize them.  He’s a good kid. I trust him. But I don’t trust the rest of the world with him, the other half of my heart. He’s ready. I know he is. But I’m NOT.

I have to get back to work. I have to write, take care of the house, pay the bills.  I wonder, how will I put my mind to these things when it wants so desperately to do nothing else but listen to my heart? Eighteen years separates the two photographs posted here.  The years feel like minutes now. Seconds, even. I blinked. I blinked and he’s off, living his own life.

I will get used to this. Eventually. With the help of strong drink and lots of chocolate.  And I’ve no doubt he’ll make me proud, just as he’s done since 1992.  Circle of life and all that. *rolls eyes*  Ah. It starts already. Son #2 (which indicates birth order, not preference :) ) just reminded me that he’ll be sixteen in a few months. In New York, sixteen is the learner’s permit age.

Please. Just kill me now, before my heart fails completely.



19 responses to “Years or seconds – same thing”

  1. Linda G. says:

    Awww…. *sniffles* What a truly beautiful post. Your son is lucky to have a mother like you. Try not to worry too much about the college years–you’ve given him a great foundation, and I’m sure he will do you proud. :)

  2. Morgan Ives says:

    Aww…you have me in tears. I’m sitting here at work, dripping on my keyboard. I have one son. He’s 10. Already, he’s so independent. The idea of him leaving for college in 8 years is terrifying. Only 8 years left! (As a mom, you know I’m not kidding when I say that.)

    • Patty says:

      After we set up his dorm room Saturday morning, we had to bounce over to my nephew’s first birthday party. And as he was smearing cake all over his face, I started bawling how fast the time went by.

  3. Kelly B says:

    You know how they tell you to be brave and to be strong? Well that is just a bunch of crap. It will get easier. One day you will look over, yep, another blink and realize you are talking to a man. Yes, I know. A Man. How the heck did that happen and he will have views of the world that are not yours and that will make you think, “Wow, I made this child/boy/man.” (And you will feel really old then.) You. Yeah, yeah, your husband may have helped. A little bit, but don’t let him kid you, you did all the hard work. But Patty, if he is a good man. Well, than, you did your job. So I raise a Hershey Kiss in your honor today and to all of the Moms out there who had to watch as their “babies” rode off into the wild blue for college or whatever they rode off for.

    Try to be brave. And if you can’t. Well Fake it!

  4. You think it’s over? It’s not. It’s still in process. You will go through other joys and agonies many more times and you may even experience the joy of both boys returning to the nest. It’s a mixed blessing, parenthood. It eats you up and spits you out and also lifts you to the heavens. The only rewards are when you get, through their actions, validation that something you did sat with them and molded their actions.

    Forest Gump was a great affirmation of a parent’s role. You’ve written a nice summary of a mother’s view. I can’t even begin to verbalize a father’s view because our role is almost diametrically opposed to that one. However, Everybody’s Fine is a great view of what a father feels he needs from his kids. Rent it if you haven’t seen it. It’ DeNiro at one of his finest moments – just have some tissues around.

    I salute you; you’re just beginning a new journey. Wait until you become a grandma. That’s another story that you’ll find challenging. I’m there now and it’s another great path.

  5. Patty says:

    I hope “grandma” is a few years off, at least. I am still not recovered from when a coworker called me “Grandma” as a joke. (You may recall I sought revenge. Ended up flipping his computer screen upside down. Ctrl + Alt + Up Arrow) Had him stewing for half an hour.

    Anyhow, thanks for your comment. Another coworker just stopped by, asked me about the weekend and got me crying in under five minutes. I’m now off to repair my make up.

    • Yes, you have a few years before grandma, but it’ll happen quicker than you expect. (For me, the youngest gave me that honor sooner than I expected.)

      Life has its heartaches and joys. If we’re lucky, the latter outbalances the former and we can all pass on with joy in our hearts.

      Keep smiling, Patty. Many more victories to celebrate.

  6. abby mumford says:

    this is beautiful, patty.

    i don’t have any kids (yet) but reading this made me feel what you feel. well done.

    • Patty says:

      Thanks, Abby. I’m feeling better now. Slightly less out of control with worry. He called; already went to his first class. He can’t get onto the internet but there is tech support to help, so it’s under control. (I hope.)

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Aww, that was so sweet!

    Also, I imagine it’ll feel like he never left home as soon as he completely runs out of things like underpants and socks, if you live within driving distance. Just saying. ;)

    I Went To School In CA And STILL Came Home To NY With Impressive Amounts Of Laundry

  8. Yesterday, 4YO: Mommy, when I’m as big as you, you won’t have to tell me how to do things anymore.

    Today, 3YO: Mommy, I can’t stop growing until I am a grown-up.

    It’s like a conspiracy to make me treasure every moment.

    • Patty says:

      Yes. Write them down if you have to! I had journals for each son, stopping only when one asked, horrified, if I planned to record his first zit. I’m exaggerating, but I did journal their early years. I just can’t believe how fast time is passing for me. I turn 45 in a few months! EEP.

  9. It is a conspiracy and it doesn’t stop with your own. Last night, 1 YO grandson reached for me to give me hug. Got my attention by saying “Ha”. (Hey, what sort of dialogue do you expect from a 1 YO?)

  10. Jeannie says:

    I know this has been a tough week for you, Patty. I hope things have settled down and you know that he’s going to do well because you’ve given him all he needs. Terrific post. <3

  11. Patty says:

    Thanks, Jeannie. He came home for the long weekend and it’s like he never left. I think that, more than anything, was the best medicine. To know that just because he’s not living here doesn’t mean he’s gone forever.