Younger Son’s band marched in our town’s holiday parade last weekend. In fact, they were the “closers”, followed only by a hook & ladder fire truck with Santa perched on top. Being a loyal groupie, of course I wanted to attend the parade, but we had just returned home from a long Thanksgiving road trip, so I didn’t want to sit through the whole thing. I planned to arrive just in time to catch the band. Well, my timing was off and I nearly missed them! I could hear the cadence of the drums as a I parked a few blocks away. I broke into a run toward the parade route.
They were already marching forward as I approached, all of them looking so polished and dignified in their royal blue and black uniforms, marching in perfect synchronicity. I had to run to keep up with them, but it seemed the faster I ran, the quicker they marched. I could never catch up. On they marched, until I became tired (and felt a bit silly chasing after them). They continued on their way, marching happily as they played their Christmas song, not noticing me in the least. I chose to stand still on the sidewalk, drinking in their final moments until they faded from sight.
It was such a blatant metaphor of life with my teenage sons that I nearly burst into tears on the spot.
Raising two little boys is no easy task. I learned through experience that it’s not for the faint-of-heart. Mommy’s energy is fully spent well before theirs. Some days seem to stretch into eternity. One rainy day before my boys were old enough to go to school, I remember glancing at the clock while we were trapped inside the house. It was only 2:30pm. “How are we going to make it to dinnertime?” I wondered.
But, a funny thing happened when the boys started high school. Suddenly, our time together became finite and limited. An exact number of days. A countdown. Rather than feeling that endless and even luxurious stretch of time, instead I feel panicked. Because time is running out. They are like trying to capture water or grains of sand in my hand, impossible to hold there forever. Eventually, the handful slips away. I want my children to grow into happy, healthy adults, but watching it happen in front of my eyes is bittersweet.
While all this is going on inside mommy, the opposite happens with the teenagers. I want to hoard every single moment, but they are making other plans (and then asking me to drive them there!). They are all about friends, activities, friends. They are focused on asserting their independence and stretching their wings.
Roots and wings. I understand the importance of cultivating both in one’s children. But is it selfish to want to clip those wings, just a teeny bit, so they won’t fly quite so far away from their nest? What if I haven’t imparted all the necessary wisdom they’ll need during their flight? How can 18 years together possibly be enough time? Who decided on that number anyway?
Some things I know with certainty. First, they will be ready to launch before I am ready to let them go. I simply must accept that fact. Second, time marches on, which is a blessing, a gift. For now, I’m marching with my boys in the parade, thrilled to take every step possible alongside them. Soon, I will become that spectator on the sidewalk, grateful for the chance just to watch them march by.