Where Did The Time Go?
Updated: Mar 25
An Odyssey Into Parenthood
I had just finished putting the finishing touches on his dorm room. I spent the better part of two weeks making sure that he had everything he needed and some “just in case” items. When the last box was unpacked, I just stood there, and the immensity of the moment settled in. My son was in college and leaving me. I was numb to the fact all summer, burying it behind my gripes that he was doing everything wrong from dirtying my kitchen all the time to not taking out the trash and eating all the food. When my husband would ask, “Why are you being so hard on him?” I’d give him a sigh of frustration and whine about how I couldn‘t wait for him to leave so that I could get my house back. It was a bold lie that I repeated often. But now there I stood, looking around his new home, wondering where the time went.
I dreamed of him before I knew his name or before I even knew he was coming. I felt it. I was pregnant. My doctor thought I was crazy. Two negative pregnancy tests insisted that I wasn't, but I didn't care. I knew my body and that dream where this little boy with my eyes and my husband's nose calling me "Mommy" was all too real.
Three weeks later, my feelings were confirmed. It couldn't have happened at a more inconvenient time. So I cried, and my husband laughed. He had not a worry in the world. We were having a baby, and according to him, everything would just work out. His optimism was and still is infectious, so I laughed too. We were in our early twenties and not yet married. I was entering grad school. We were completely unaware of what we were in for, but we were happy, and that's all that mattered.
Nine months is an impossible amount of time to prepare someone for something so life-altering as becoming a parent. When they placed this tiny human on my chest, and as he looked up at me and gave me a seemingly "knowing" look, I peered into his eyes and said, "There you are, exactly as I dreamed you."
Later, after I took inventory of all his fingers and toes, and it was just him and me alone in my hospital room, I sat in wonder of the fact that I had a son. "I am a mother, and I have a son." The enormity of the moment and the profoundness of the statement tumbled over me and came pouring out in a deluge of tears. My emotions could not fit any one category. Happiness. Worry. Fear. Hope.
I remember that first night home. My husband and I placed our swaddled son in the middle of the bed, and then we just looked at each other. He said to me, "Ok, so now what?" I laughed and shrugged my shoulders and said, "I thought you knew?" No, we were both clueless, and there were many times over the years when my husband would look at me and wonder why I didn't have the answer to some childhood dilemma. I always replied, "I'm on the same page of the parenting book as you are. Trust me when I tell you that I did not read ahead."
Besides, what book could guide or prepare you for a job where from the moment you wake up, every decision or action you make in your life is geared towards keeping this little person safe and making his life better? Protecting. Caring. Motivating. Preparing this child for a life one day on his own.
When your child is small, people say you should enjoy it because it goes by fast. They did not lie. Diapers, colic, projectile vomiting, first words, laughing, first steps, potty training, birthday parties, starting school and learning to read. It's all a blur. Thank God I was fanatical about documenting it all because before I knew it, he was a teen exerting his brooding manhood and challenging me in every way possible.
How I longed for the little cute smoothed face child, who cuddled with us in bed to watch a movie and would play sick just so he could stay home from school and "trick" me into taking him out on a "Mommy and Son Date." That child was gone and was replaced by a pimpled, smelly, sloppy, hard-headed, eats everything in the house teenager. Suddenly, I was doling out punishments instead of kisses, and my sweet motherly voice could not penetrate his ears; only the deep base of his father's could.
By Senior year, the countdown had begun for both of us, I think. He made it quite known that he couldn't wait for his independence. I, on the other hand, was just counting down to the inevitable. I pretended that I couldn't wait for my "pain in the butt" son to leave and learn what the world was really all about. However, I was (and still am) terrified that he may not be ready.
No one ever tells you that the labor pains you endured never really go away.
Suddenly, there I stood in the middle of my son's dorm room, his 6'2' frame hovered over me to give me a hug as his raspy voice said, "I'll see you later, Ma." I just stood there. I told myself that I wasn't going to cry. I had prepared myself for this moment. The moment when all my day-to-day mothering would be over; when this man whom I raised would no longer need me in the same way he did before. Damn!! Time is a bitch. How do 18 years go by that fast? By my calculations, he should only be about 10.
He took my arms, wrapped them around him, and I squeezed. I found myself not wanting to let go, not ready to let go. I said to myself, "He's leaving. He's grown." The enormity of the moment and the profoundness of the statement tumbled over me and came pouring out in a deluge of tears. My emotions could not fit any one category. Happiness- for him and this new chapter he's embarking on in his life. Worry- about EVERYTHING. Fear- for him and his safety. Hope-that we did our best.
The ride home seemed so long. My husband was surprisingly silent for much of the ride, which meant he was feeling it too. We dragged ourselves into the house that was suddenly so empty and so quiet now. After he threw his keys down on the kitchen table and absentmindedly picked up a piece of mail, he looked over at me, sighed and said, "Ok, so now what?" I laughed, shrugged my shoulders and said, "I thought you knew?"