My sweetest boychicks,
Oh wait, you’re probably too old for me to still use terms of endearment, now that you are SIXTEEN! Let me pause for just a moment to catch my breath. Watching you grow so quickly has sucked the air out of the room and I am gasping. With no younger children to distract me from your soon-to-be release into the wild, I have no choice but to confront full-on the reality of being an “empty nester” in two short years. I suppose I could swan dive directly into that pool of denial, that up to now I’ve only been wading in, and get pregnant. Hah, got your attention there. How freaky would that be?! Don’t worry, I’m not that desperate. No, I wouldn’t want anything to distract me from fully enjoying your next few years before you fully take flight.
It’s a funny thing, this parenting. You see, there’s loads of information on the going-ons of the toddler years all the way up through about age 10, and then all the books related to parenting turn to shit. No wonder teenagers get such a bad rap, most books out there are for dealing with tyrannical teens. You two have been anything but and so we’re left to our own devices to muddle through and bumble along in our parenting roles with mostly-awesome kids. I guess it’s much harder to sell a book that deals with totally adjusted, interested, curious, inquisitive, takes-the-initiative type of kids. So dad and I haven’t had much to go on other than our hunches these past few years, and seeing how you two continue to blossom into such responsible, fun, loving, caring, intelligent young men, I guess we’re doing okay, even if there is no book to validate us. Not that we relied much on books anyway, but there were times when it came handy to grab a book and know that what you were doing was age appropriate, like eating your boogers, that sort of thing. Perhaps there is a book out there that would shame us into believing that everything we’ve done this past year will mess you up indefinitely, and we’d feel guilty and second guess ourselves rather than pay attention to the actual outcome of you two being pretty darn incredible, especially considering the life changes that you’ve experienced this past year.
We’ve moved to a new country. You enrolled in a new school (obviously.) You’ve had to make a whole new set of friends. You have learned how to maintain friendships from afar. You’ve had to adjust to us being a family of four (24*7)*4.2, to being a family of four (24*3)*1.25. This last sloppy mathematical equation is probably the suckiest part for me and dad, and yet it also the essence of parenting because as a parent you find yourself willing to sacrifice for your kids in a way that must seem lunatic to people without them. Maybe we have some precedent with your grandfather, whom you never had the privilege of meeting, giving up his precious time with your dad and uncle so that they could escape the city and learn from their extended Canadian family and life on the farm as teens. Or maybe we just knew you and were present enough to read your cues that what you desired was possible only by making a bold move. So we all held hands and leapt, and here we now are. I think it’s safe to say that we not only landed safely, but you two have hit the ground running and are starting to take flight. I feel like a mother bird watching you two teeter on the edge of a nest a million feet above the ground. My heart is both in my throat and bursting out of my chest with pride at your accomplishments. I can only assess where you’re at through the lens of where I was at when I was 16. I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s like comparing apples to brussels sprouts. You are light years ahead of where I was emotionally, intellectually and most important, confidently. There was no way I could have endured the changes you’ve gone through. I was a classic tormented teen, full of angst and so inward looking that my head was pretty much glued to my belly-button until I turned 17 or 18 (or possibly later, depending on whom you ask.) In fact, I was the type of teen all those books are written about. Now, I know I’m your mum and all, but I think I can safely say that the world is a better place with you in it. Your sense of care, concern, justice and compassion has already touched the lives of others in positive ways. Dad and I are pretty much done with the heavy lifting of parenting and here’s a wicked little secret that no one tells you, but your Job as a parent is pretty much over by now. We are truly in the supportive roles now. Sure, we remind you to get to bed on time and turn down the volume of your music every now and again, but the day-to-day moral teaching of parenting is over. We’ve pontificated, hollered, spoke until blue-in-the-face, cajoled, rambled, muttered, and spewed all we can. You’ve pretty much heard it all and now it’s up to you to take the bits you like and the parts you don’t and craft those teachings into a shape that fits the essence of you. While it is sometimes really hard not to tinker and want to reach up and pat your out-of-place hair down, we do our best to restrain and give you the space to run and fall and get up again and learn from your life’s terrain.
I’d have to say reaching your sixteenth birthday leaves me both sad and ecstatic. And maybe this is the other oxymoron of parenting that gets little mention, but it’s true. At times I feel paralyzed with sadness that our day-to-day journey together is nearly over and in the very next moment I can feel such joy and anticipation for your soon-to-be flight that I can hardly contain myself.
Once again, I want to say thank you. Thank you for ballooning our hearts to such capacities that I feel like a helium orb bopping along the tree-tops. Thank you for allowing us to probe and meddle and inquire about your lives without shutting down or shutting us out. Thank you for your acts of kindness to others. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for making these past sixteen years the loveliest, enriching and sometimes most grueling I’ve ever known. Thank you for casting shadows that make noticing the light possible. Thank you for being you.
With more love than I think possible to feel, Mummy