When I first looked into your eyes, I expected fireworks. I mean, how else does it feel when you meet the soul that has made you a mother for the first time? The moment was still, and quiet. There were no fireworks, just a gentle connection as our eyes met. I searched your face for familiarity … I had worked so hard to bring you safely into this world (you hadn’t made it easy) … I was so sure I would recognize you. Could I see your dad’s soulful brown eyes? My long lashes? Did you have your great-grandpa’s dimple in your chin? I couldn’t recongize you as I thought I might. The one thing I knew was that you were uniquely you, and that I was in love with you at first glance.
Eighteen years later, I still search your face. I look for the glint you had in your eyes when you had a plan for mischief. I look for the mud on your cheeks from an expedition in the woods. I look for the tears in your eyes that only I can soothe. I look to see what kind of day you had, how practice was. I can read your face — now as familiar as my own — like a book. I search for clues, since your words are few. I look for reminders that there was a time when you were truly all mine.
On Friday you will gain your independence. I will no longer be your guardian, though I will always be your mother, you will take your first tangible step into adulthood. You are ready. And I am trying to be.
This picture may be my favorite of us. Sitting in the sand on the Carolina coast, sifting through shells and rocks, finding treasures. If I close my eyes I can feel the sun melting on my shoulders, I can feel your little body, wet and salty so close to mine. I can feel you loving no one in the world more than me. I am so proud of who you are, the man you are becoming. But I will not lie, a part of me mourns the little boy that you were.
On the eve of the close of your 18th year, I hope you know …
You have never been easy. Not one step of being your mother was easy. You have challenged me mentally and physically, spiritually and intelectually since the day God brought you to my arms. I have heard others say about their kids, “Parenting them has been such a joy!”. I giggle. I can’t always say that, but what I can say is that parenting you has always been the most important job to me. Being your mother has been the greatest privilege and honor of my life (and your brother’s too, don’t go telling them I love you more.)
I will never be your friend, I will always be your momma. We can’t be friends. I have earned an honor higher than that, and you have too. You have so much greater importance in my life than being my friend. That doesn’t mean we can’t do things friends do, but I will honor our relationship with a higher distinction, always. You are not my friend, you are my son.
The older I get the more I believe that forgiveness may be the single most humane thing we can give to each other. Regret and guilt are heavy and loathesome. Forgiveness frees you, it frees those that hurt you. Do not hold grudges. It sucks you dry.
You like to be right (yes, I know, you come by it honestly by both daddy and I). Don’t let being right get in the way of you being happy. It’s honestly not that hard to say, “I was wrong.” Nor is it that hard to say, “I’m sorry.” when you should. Use both phrases wisely, but use them.
You make me proud. But I hope somewhere in there you have made yourself proud, too.
I hope you know that hard work pays off, until it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean you should stop working hard, sometimes it just means you need to work longer, sometimes it means you need to work differently. Sometimes it just means someone else wins this time.
I will always have your back. I will always defend and honor you. I will also tell you when you are wrong or being an ass. That’s my job. Even if you’re 18.
I am not done being your mother. There is so much more I need to teach you, so much more I want you to see and learn. So much more I want to experience with you. We are entering a new phase, I understand that, and while I grieve for the little boy who I can’t find anymore, I am eager to continue to know the man that is standing before me. I am beginning to see a path to a relationship that is just as beautiful as when you were a little boy, sitting on my lap playing with my hair with your sticky fingers. I see you leading me there, and I thank you for that. I don’t think I can find it on my own.
I will miss the weight of you in a room when you aren’t living here anymore. I know we have some time before we pack your bags … and I welcome and relish every minute … but I will miss you. The kind of missing that makes it hard to sleep. Your presence is strong in our house. I will miss that.
You are a leader. Do not abuse or misguide people with that power. Honor it. Respect it. Use it for good. And when you screw up and misuse it (because you will, we all do) — say “I’m sorry.”. Forgiveness. There it is again.
I have loved you fiercly through every day, even before you took your first breath. I have mourned the loss of the little boy you were. I have celebrated the young man you are becoming. I take great comfort in knowing that for all the days of your life, from every day before and every day after this day, no one will love you the way your momma does. That, is the great constant in this world.
Love you, baby boy.