In 12 Months

From our first family trip to San Francisco in 2008

From our first family trip to San Francisco in 2008

I survived my son’s senior photo shoot this morning without crying or otherwise embarrassing him. I even managed to joke a little on the ride home, asking if the photographer had staged any cheesy glamour shot poses (he did). But a few hours later, when I heard him playing a song he wrote on the piano downstairs, the sobbing started. In 12 months, the senior picture will be hanging on the wall, but the piano will be silent. In 12 months, my son will be a legal adult and a college student. In 12 months, his life as an independent person will begin. And in 12 months, my role within it will change forever.

Over the past 17 years, I have watched him grow into an intelligent, talented, compassionate and thoughtful young man. I have seen him enjoy successes beyond anything I ever imagined for him. I have also seen him stumble, pick himself up and learn from his mistakes. And I have been there every step of the way, helping him when he wanted me to and watching from the sidelines when he needed that more. I have been unknowingly making the transition from active caregiver to impartial observer, loosening the reins gradually until he is ready to take them for good. In 12 months, that time will arrive, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Nor do I want to. I am excited about what the future holds for him. I can’t wait to see which colleges accept him and which one he chooses. Will it be his dream school, which is relatively close to home, or his second choice, which is 2,000 miles away? Will he follow through with his lifelong plan of becoming a surgeon, or will his career path change? Where will he decide to live after college? Will he marry? Will he have a family? In 12 months, I will know the answers to some of these questions as his adult life starts to unfold. The selfless mother in me will happily open her arms so he can spread his wings and fly, but the selfish mother in me secretly longs to cling to him tightly and never let go.

The selfless mother, of course, will prevail. As I jokingly said to my husband the other day, “It’s not as if I can lock him in the basement and make him stay at home.” It’s just that I didn’t realize how much it would hurt when the milestones turned from “firsts” to “lasts.” Today my son, whom I watched take his first steps and solo car ride, had his last school photograph taken. Tomorrow he will pick up his schedule and books for his last year of high school. A week from tomorrow, that school year will begin, and the lasts will just keep coming. In 12 months, a whole new series of firsts will begin, and none of them will involve me. In 12 months, I’ll be fired from the best job I’ll ever have – or at least demoted to a part-time position.

I’m not ready for that, but my son is. I tried to teach him how to sort laundry today (yes, I still do it for him), and he dismissed me with “I can just Google it, Mom.” He is smart. He is resourceful. He will figure it out – the laundry and everything else – on his own. And if Google somehow fails him, I will only be a phone call away. I may not play an active part in the many firsts that await him, but I will always be here to hear about them. In 12 months, I will still be his mom. Nothing can change that.