“Oh the power to be strong
And the wisdom to be wise
All these things will come to you in time
On this journey that you’re making
There’ll be answers that you’ll seek
And it’s you who’ll climb the mountain
It’s you who’ll reach the peak
Son of Man, look to the sky
Lift your spirit, set it free
Some day you’ll walk tall with pride
Son of Man, a man in time you’ll be
Though there’s no one there to guide you
No one to take your hand
But with faith and understanding
You will journey from boy to man”
My first born son has the lead in Tarzan. My first born daughter is a flying ape (I do hope that Lizzie grows to be a writer because I would love to hear her take on that spilled out in a beautiful tapestry of humor and sibling rivalry).
The theme of Disney’s Tarzan, the ultimate story of leaving home to find a new life, lining up with Luke’s path from a high school senior to a college freshman is either beautiful synchronicity or cruel irony. I can’t yet be sure.
Quinn has fallen in love with the idea of Luke actually being Tarzan ever since Luke landed the role and this sweet little four year old boy of ours sneaks out of his bed at night so that he can sleep with Tarzan:
He asks if Tarzan can give him a bath and if Tarzan can pick him up from school and when Luke comes home at the end of the day, Quinn takes a running leap off of the couch and into Tarzan’s strong arms. Tonight, though, he called him Luke. He asked me why Luke was moving. I explained to his whimpering protests that Luke was going to a bigger school and it was in a different city, but that he would be home for Christmas, to which Quinn replied with glee, “AND for my bedtime.”
I have been trying to find where that courage to let go sits in my body and I find it somehow lodged right above my throat … like I want to speak out in protest, but swallow my words first. It just doesn’t seem fair … we spend all these years falling in love, picking up the pieces, offering comfort, rides, dinners, conversations in the car rides home, cold hands on warm foreheads, hugs at the end of a really bad decision, conferences with their teachers, playdates with practical strangers, and to be honest, there is a whole bunch of “raising kid stuff” that I sure as hell am not going to miss, but still … this feels like a break up.
The other day I was driving and I was thinking about how Luke’s birthday next month will be his last birthday waking up at home. As I imagined that, “You’ll be in My Heart,” played in the car, and I literally had to pull over and cry. The transition from boy to man … I guess it’s what we spend all this time getting ready for. Pretty sure this is why God made birds. If a bird can kick out a tiny little practically featherless little thing from a nest where the only option is fly or die, then surely, I can put a fully grown, 6′ 1″ human on an airplane.
Lizzie asked me if I am going to be this sad when she leaves for school (is it harder to say goodbye to an ape?). I am sure it will be, but there is something to the first kid, the guinea pig, that makes the fear of the unknown a little bit more daunting. I mean … the momma bird sees that the first one makes it, so kicking out the second is probably just a shrug of the shoulders, right? Sigh.
I got into an argument with a hotel receptionist in Seattle as I was booking our “see your college choices trip.” She wanted to charge me $120 extra dollars for our room because Luke is an adult. Initially, she was going to give me the university discount rate (as the school is right across the street), but when she found out Luke was eighteen, she tagged on the extra $40 a night. She explained that “adults use more towels and electricity.” Clearly, she does not live with a teenaged girl. First of all, how old does she think prospective college students are? Second of all, he is NOT AN ADULT. He is my baby. She did not agree. She would send him to war. She’d probably buy him a beer. She’d probably SLEEP WITH HIM. We aren’t staying there.
I have tried really hard not to be a helicopter mom. I have tried really hard to let my kids make mistakes, to fall on their faces, to get back up, to learn resilience and trust. We have raised them, all four of them, in a 1300 square foot house with one bathroom. The bedrooms don’t have doors. There are ongoing construction projects and the lighting is horrific. Our house is loud and constantly low on groceries. There are exactly forty-five loads of laundry waiting for me in the basement. We don’t have cable. Knowing all that makes me realize that these kids are more than prepped to be great roommates in a crowded dorm room than just about anyone. That momma bird must have a very similar line of thoughts rambling around in that tiny brain before she pulls the trigger.
For the first time in my life, I don’t want the school year to end. I just want to take each of these last sweet few months to enjoy waiting up at night until I hear Luke’s feet pound up to front steps, to fall asleep while he is sings in the shower (“I can see there’s so much to learn/It’s all so close and yet so far/I see myself as people see me/But I just know there’s something bigger out there”), to work with him on his drawings, to listen to him giggle on FaceTime with his girlfriend.
I am just soaking in every piece so that it can sit there in my heart and when he is far away I can find it. I am soaking in every piece so that the pieces of me remain whole. I am soaking in every fleeting piece because deep down I know that one day he isn’t the one who leaves. One day, I do. That thought paralyzes me sometimes. I want every lifetime to be with these five people. Next time give us the bigger house, though (I mean this has built character and all, but really, I’ve got it). I am soaking in every piece because I am madly in love with this boy. I mean man.
Your Dad forwards the link to your blogs, and I have enjoyed everyone. This one, however, was very special. It brought back many memories. Enjoy the next few months, and, yes, it will be hard no matter your mental preparation. Does it get easier for the next one – NO. It gets easier to understand when they come home for Christmas, and that first summer. You then realize that the letting good was a good thing – for you and for them.
You have taken my breath away. You have made the horrible play date yesterday okay, and the fact that someone woke me up an hour ago on my one sleep-in day to wipe their butt? Also okay. Because you have described so beautifully that feeling of loss I dread. I will appreciate these days. I will appreciate these long, long days and these short, short years. Thank you.
Once again, Kelly, you have managed to hit the proverbial nail on the head! We are in the process of looking at colleges for Katie and I really feel like I’m starting the grieving process for myself. I know we are meant to raise our “little birds” so they are able to fly away. The problem is that they fly away! Such a bittersweet process. Thanks once again for your lovely ability to put these thoughts into words–and to make me feel like I’m not the only one feeling these crazy feelings!
A good writer takes you into their head, a great writer their heart! I adore your writing! Your openness and ability to be awake to your experience, while integrating the bitter-sweetness of life, is expressed so beautifully through your words. With love so strong you will all continue to thrive! Thank you for sharing.
So beautiful Kelly! When we dropped Tess off at Bennington I cried all the way home- and as you know, we drove home.
I hate to say it but it was the same when Ky and Shae left… A heart wrenching mix of tears and pride that changes everyone involved. The only saving grace is you know it’s a pain the collective feels and can absorb.
I’m thinking about you…
I’m so grateful that Jen Groeber put your link in my comments section; this is gorgeous! I am the ghost of mothers future, in this journey you’re on, and I SO get every word of this (not to mention my tendency to cry over the music to Tarzan!)… I’ve written a lot about this, as my 3 kids have grown up, graduated and moved on (one to Israel, one to Australia, and one still here, thankfully)… it does not seem fair. Boy is that an understatement! But happen it does, and you have captured it in beautiful writing. Here is the link to my current piece, where Jen suggested I read you. I almost never put my links in someone else’s comment section, so I hope you don’t mind. I just believe that it does take a village, and clearly we only live a few huts away. (By the way, I live in the Seattle area… sorry you had to deal with that lousy attitude!) http://talesfromthemotherland.me/2015/03/13/on-becoming-a-mother-after-25-years-as-a-mom/
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It was fun reading you, Jen and Dawn. An emotional timespan..you three covers it so very well. My youngest is in her senior year, I sooo feel what you write. It’s a bittersweet time.