I’ve been a bit emotional lately, and it’s all those damn kids’ fault.
Last week I was thinking about Jake’s upcoming eighteenth birthday and how we might celebrate his coming of age in a special way, when it occurred to me that this might very well be his last birthday at home. Next year he will be away at college for his birthday, and after that….who knows? And then it will be my Riley’s turn to go, and then my Matt’s turn, and then the loves of my life with be gone and my heart will be broken and we will all die a horrible death, the end.
I’ve been in tears a lot.
My first baby, the one who redirected my life onto a path I’d never considered taking, is almost gone. And that’s as it should be, and that’s what I want for him, and yet I’d like to tether him to the house so he won’t go anywhere and I can see his smile everyday.
So much of the past seven years has been filled with getting through. Getting through with humor and laughter and love, but getting through. My mind on keeping utilities paid, making sure kids are healthy, and getting the huge laundry basket of single mom responsibilities tended to every day. It’s been scary, and it’s been overwhelming, and there were years worth of every-other-weekends when Mike would take the kids and once they were gone I’d sit and cry because I felt that my shoulders were too small to handle the burdens they were bearing.
This past year, though, I’ve noticed a change.
When Mike and I separated and divorced, I read everything I could get my hands on about marriage: what makes marriage work, what makes it fail, what makes divorce successful, what makes it an injury which never quite heals. One of the best books I read said that it takes families six years to stop showing signs of stress from divorce, and at the time that seemed such a long time, and so disheartening. It was right. After all our hard work, this year has been our best in a very long time. Financially, there is hope. Emotionally, everyone is well. It’s as if there is a peaceful clarity that has been missing for so long I didn’t even remember it existed. Life has become about now and the future, and it’s no longer about being tied to the past.
As Jake hits eighteen and gets ready to spread his wings, wings I’ve tried so hard to help him make strong and master the use of, it’s bittersweet to know that so much of his teens have been spent with me struggling with the preoccupying worries of a single mom of three. Could it have been different? No, not really. How can one not worry about children recovering from divorce, bills that can’t be paid? Do I feel guilty that I haven’t been carefree and more emotionally present ? Yes. Have the struggles of my single motherhood effected him? Undoubtedly, but not necessarily in ways that are bad.
He’s incredibly mature and competent, because I’ve needed all my boys to be. Everyone must pull their weight in this house, because nothing will get done otherwise. He’s learned the skills his brothers are now learning: Jake can cook an amazing dinner, install new faucets, use a chainsaw, chop firewood and do his laundry, and I’m not sure I would have pushed for such self-sufficiency if it hadn’t been necessary to delegate those tasks. With his knowledge of his self-sufficiency there is a confidence in himself that is lovely to see. Our situation has made him this young man, and yet our situation hasn’t left me nearly enough time to enjoy him before he goes.
He’s an incredible person, and he and his wonderful brothers will be gone too soon. The smell of kid shampoo replaced by that of shaving cream, the freckles replaced by whiskers, the bicycles replaced by cars they’ll pack up to head for college and beer and pretty girls and their futures.
But, I swear, it was only five minutes ago that he was born, and I’m just not ready for him to go.