My son is going to homecoming tonight. He’s a high school freshman, and it’s his first dance. The corsage is in the fridge. The clothes are ironed. The post-dance party plans have been made. Everything is in order, and I’m thrilled for him. But I have to admit, there’s a little melancholy mixed in there too.
For one thing, my husband is in China on business. It’s our son’s first dance, a milestone in a teenager’s social life. I am upset for my husband because I know how much he wants to be here and how bad he feels that he will miss it. I am also sad because I won’t have my rock here beside me to squeeze my hand so I don’t cry and embarrass our son in front of his date and friends.
For another thing, my little boy is taking one more step away from me. I know this is normal, healthy. I am happy he found a girl he wanted to ask to the dance. I loved taking him shopping for a new shirt and a tie to match her dress. I bugged him for days to let me help him choose a corsage. I want him to enjoy high school, to be involved, to have friends and girlfriends, to do all the things teenagers should do.
I just don’t want to become irrelevant in the process.
Is that so wrong for a mother to admit? We spend every waking — and sleeping — hour with our children when they are infants, nurturing and soothing them. When they are toddlers and preschoolers, we help them learn to talk, to walk, to ride a bike, to spell their names. When they are school-age, we pitch in with their homework, attend their soccer games, host their playdates. And through it all, we’re there to cheer them on and kiss away the bumps and bruises. Until one day, when they don’t want us there anymore, or at least won’t admit that they do.
No one tells us when our children are young and want our constant attention how much it will hurt someday when they don’t.
This morning, as my son sat silently in the car on the way home from ordering his date’s corsage (yes, he waited until the day of the dance despite my prodding), I made an important realization. I can either let him push me away, or I can push back. I decided that whether he likes it or not, I am going to do my damnedest to remain firmly rooted in his life. As he distances himself from me emotionally, I am going to force myself to keep trying, to ask questions, to be understanding and offer help. He may shut me down, act surly or even withdraw completely. But I was a teenager once. I know he doesn’t want me to stop asking, to stop trying to understand even when he thinks I don’t.
Tonight when he sighs after I ask to take yet another picture of him and his date, when he mocks the music I play on the radio as we drive to the dance, I’m going to do my best not to take it personally. I know my little boy, the guy who used to worship and adore me, is still in there somewhere.
I hope he has the time of his life tonight.