Certainly I loved my newborn son with a fierceness and fullness of emotions that I did not, up until that time, know I possessed. But, if I’m honest, I felt as if someone had just placed a being from another planet in my arms and said, “Here you go. He’s all yours.”
I remember crying that first night in the hospital from exhaustion and joy, but also over the realization of “Holy shit! He’s mine – forever.”
Now what?! I can’t actually do this.
So when my beautiful, blue-eyed son was still shrieking and wailing like a newborn Tasmanian Devil (I think the technical term is ‘colicky’) at 6 months and I’d developed bruises on my ass from the wooden rocking chair and resorted to turning the clothes dryer on at 2am for ‘white noise’ and people would say to me, “They grow up so fast,” I would pray they were right.
Or when I was covered with snot and throw-up, worn denim overalls for the 4th day in a row and positive I hadn’t looked attractive or sexy or desirable in months, and people would say, “Remember these moments,” I’d smile politely (and secretly want to scratch their eyes out in psychopathic glee) and nod, but wonder to myself, “Why in God’s name would I want to remember this?”
He turned 18.
And I can’t help but remember.
So, on the occasion of his 18th birthday I cannot stress enough that they really do grow up too fast and you really must, for all that is good and holy and lovely in the world, remember those moments.
Remember when they could cite, with perfect pronunciation, the scientific name of every single dinosaur in their dinosaur encyclopedia and get lost in the dream of becoming a paleontologist.
Remember when they mixed the brand new set of playdough together creating a putrid greenish black color which then crusted itself into the Playdough Fun Factory, taking hours of cleaning to get it out, just because they had an idea only known or comprehended by them.
Remember when they wanted to play outside regardless of the weather: rain, heat, or snow. They were always ready for a new day, even when it took 15 minutes just to wrangle them into a snowsuit, mittens, hat, and boots for a mere 10 minutes of snowball fights. However, their day was complete and they needed nothing else in their world other than you, snow, and a mug of hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.
And remember when they glared at you because you asked one too many times if they’d done their homework and you reminded them that it was your job to ask (as if, at that point, they cared one iota if it was your job or not), because one day….
You’ll go to bed long before they do and they will tuck you in because they’re staying up late to study (without prompting) for a class that really does matter on the transcript.
Remember all that when they start exploring colleges, because dreams aren’t just for blue-eyed, white-blond 4 year old boys. Now is the time to keep dreaming.
All those ‘remembrances’ were glimpses along the way of his growing up. It’s those tiny, seemingly ordinary moments that now hold a certain sweetness to them which only the passages of times reveals.
I no longer lay his clothes out and bite my tongue at the outfits he pulls together; he’s developed some ‘taste’ in clothes, it actually does happen. I no longer take him to the barber shop and direct them to give him the ‘traditional little boy side-part cut.’ But, when he wanted to grow his hair long (and it was prettier than my hair ever was), I let him. And when he wanted to get it cut short because we were moving and he didn’t want to be different from everyone else, I understood.
For so long my first born son was the oldest male in my house and he’d often hug me, resting his chin on my head, reminding me that he was not only getting older and now bigger than me, but he cared for me too. Not just about me.
Where had the tiny, screaming alien gone?
And then, effortlessly he careens between manhood and boyhood with just a delicate skip, and I’ll find him slaying imaginary dragons in a blanket fort with his brothers and the three of them together, get lost in a world unknown to me.
They’d play for hours, as only brothers can, until someone would start bleeding or crying and I’d watch my boy, slip back into man and mediate the fight and adjust the rules of engagement just so everyone could be happy and the game could go on.
And he could be a just a boy.
He’s not just a boy anymore though, technically speaking my boy is a man now. I am not sure how that happened, because just the other day I held him my arms and thought, “Oh dear LORD, I don’t know what to do with a baby.”
I don’t know if it was luck or love, nature or nurture, but that boy… I watch him move with grace and ease between friends and strangers, marvel at the way he can make a crowd belly laugh with just one word, and swell with pride and joy when I get to utter the words, “I’m Carter May’s mom.
Maybe I did know what to do with a baby.
I don’t know what to do without that baby.
But the man he is… stops me in my tracks.