I remember so well all the big milestones my children hit when they were young – first words, first steps, crawling, rolling over, catching a ball, first lost tooth, the usual. But all my children will be teenagers or adults as of this year. My “baby” will likely be taller than me in a year or so. Now there are completely new milestones, for me and my children, that hit out of the blue from time to time and make me sentimental in a whole new way.
About a month ago, my oldest son hit the same age I was when I gave birth to him. I was a fairly young mom, and I look at him and wonder how I was possibly able to handle the responsibility of being a parent at his age. I know that he is a man now, and doesn’t need me there to take care of him every day, but every once in a while he reminds me that he needs me, just like I still remind my own mom I still need her to this day. While I am fairly sure my turn at becoming a grandma is still quite a way down the road, I know it’s coming and I will relish that new milestone in my own life when it’s time.
My oldest daughter is about the same age I was when my husband and I got engaged. I was so sure of where my life was going when we took that step, and had it all figured out. Yeah, right. Thankfully, I was at least correct in my belief that my fiance’ and I would always be together as we are about to celebrate 24 years of marriage. However, it could have just as easily gone the other way given that I was still a teenager, and I still believed I knew more than I actually did. My daughter makes it clear to me that she can’t imagine deciding to get married right now. I know that the next milestone of one of my children taking steps toward marriage is likely going to happen sooner than later, though, and I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for that day well in advance.
I’ve been through the milestones of getting driver’s licences, first dates, proms and graduations. I’ve been through choosing colleges and subsequently dropping my children off to live away from my protective bubble for the first time. I’ve been through getting calls that they’ve been in an accident, or are horribly sick and I can’t be there to take care of them. I’ve gotten excited calls about accomplishments they’ve reached all on their own. I’ve cheered them through victories and helped them pick up the pieces after failures.
Recently, my children have been reaching some more new milestones. My son, who will graduate from college at the end of this year, is trying to figure out what to do with his life. He’s overwhelmed by the realities of being an adult and starting his life on his own, and I have to reassure him that even if I’m all the way across the country, I’m always just a phone call away. I remember so well picking him up when he scraped his knee and soothing him and letting him know he would be okay, and this feels like the emotional equivalent.
My younger daughter is starting high school this year where she will know almost no one. I recall how nervous each of my older three children was that they would never make any friends when they started high school. Within days of starting school or summer programs, each of them made friends with whom they are close to this day. She started summer school less than three weeks ago and has already been out with a couple of new girls from her class, so I am sure she’s also going to be just fine.
As my children grow, I have to learn to let go. The first time any of them asked to go “hang out” with their friends when there would not be an adult with them the entire time, say to a movie or to the mall, my stomach dropped. Would they be okay? Would they stay out of trouble? Would they be safe? There came a day we had to say Okay, and thankfully all has been well thus far. I’m no less concerned for their well-being each time they walk out the door on their own, but it does get a little easier each time.
Life was much simpler when the milestones were about whether my child would say Mama or Dad first. The new milestones, the ones that show me I’ve actually done a pretty decent job at being a parent despite my utter terror the first time they put my child in my arms, have a more lasting impact I think. Back then my kids turned to me because they had to. Now they turn to me because they want to. Even though it reminds me that I’m getting older, and time is racing by, I’ll face the new milestones with joy and pride in where we have been, and where the road ahead of us as a family will lead.