Sixteen years ago today, I waddled into the drug analysis lab at Fairview University Medical Center. It was a Friday, my last scheduled day of work before beginning maternity leave, and two days prior to the due date of my first child. The nursery was decorated, the hospital bag was packed, and we’d been showered with all the essential baby paraphernalia by countless friends and family members. We were READY.
I put READY in boldface type and all-caps as a means of telling you my tongue was fully inserted into my cheek when I wrote that.
Because we weren’t ready. We never could have been ready. No one could ever really be ready. For the joys and sorrows, highs and lows, tears and elation, pride and despair, and the thousands upon thousands of loads of laundry that come with this crazy journey of parenthood.
BUT, we have muddled through and managed to keep him alive.
And tomorrow our boy turns 16. SIXTEEN.
It’s an occasion worthy of a Venn diagram, dontcha think?
Allow me to expound. The baby diarrhea shade of green in the middle represents that most of the things I love about parenting right now are the SAME EXACT THINGS I HATE about parenting right now.
Or perhaps it should be labeled ‘why parenthood is so damn hard.’ Or maybe we should just go with ‘baby diarrhea.’ Because that’s a good indicator of how unpleasant it is to be so damn conflicted all the time.
I love that he has a learner’s permit. Because I get really damn sick of driving and I want him to help. But I hate it because who the hell has the time AND intestinal fortitude to teach a teenager to drive? And, the idea of him being a licensed driver, with his not fully developed adolescent mind is scary AF.
I love that he’s aged (or grown or whatever) out of travel basketball and baseball. Because, to be completely honest, they were huge time and energy sucks on our family. And we don’t have to do tryouts anymore. Halle-freaking-lujah. But I hate it because I did, on a lot of levels, enjoy being a sports mom. Sitting on the sidelines watching your kids do their thing is pretty cool. And I hate it because he’s sixteen, and he now has more down time than he’s had since the third grade. THIS is when I need him to be busy (ideally too busy to get into any trouble). But alas, that is not how sports development works in affluent, upwardly mobile American suburbs where everyone believe their children are destined for athletic greatness.
I love that he took up debate last fall. Because it’s a great skill and resumé builder. But I hate it because I really didn’t need him to be any better at arguing with me. I love his competitive spirit, but I hate it when it gets the better of him. I love that he’s a total smart-ass, but I hate it when his lack of judgement causes him to cross the line of appropriateness and turns him into a jerk.
I love that he’s growing up, but I hate that he’s growing up.
But, truth be told, I love it more than I hate it. I love that he hovers over me (yet will still occasionally, without prompting, stoop down and give me a big ol’ hug). I love that he’s growing so quickly I feel like I can almost watch him getting taller before my eyes. I love that my influence over him is diminishing exponentially. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also pretty damn magical. We’ll see if I feel that way in three years when I’m preparing for high school graduation instead of blathering on in cyberspace.