A while back, Younger Son’s high school band had the honor of marching in our town’s holiday parade. As a loyal groupie, I wanted to attend, but we had that very day returned from a long road trip and I didn’t want to sit through the whole thing.
I planned to arrive just in time to catch the band.
But my timing was off and I nearly missed them. The cadence of the band’s drums kept time with my racing heartbeat as I parked a few blocks away. I broke into a run toward the parade route.
They were already marching past as I approached, all of them looking so polished and dignified in their uniforms, their notes and movements in perfect synchronicity. I desperately wanted to see their faces – or rather, to see Son’s sweet toddler-turned-teenager face. But I was too late for that. He had already passed by, and I had to run just to keep up behind them.
The faster I ran, the quicker they marched. I could never catch up. On they marched, getting smaller and smaller, their music gently fading, until I became tired, and felt a bit silly chasing after them. They continued on their way, marching happily and not noticing me in the least. At last, I stopped on the sidewalk, drinking in their final moments until they vanished from sight.
It was such a blatant metaphor of life with my teenage sons that I burst into tears on the spot.
Raising two little boys is no easy task, and chasing them constantly was nothing at all how I had pictured. I imagined playdough and coloring books all day. Maybe we’d bake cookies occasionally just to change it up. They, however, were more about pillow forts, bikes and balls outside (sometimes inside) and anything to do with fire. One time there were kitchen knives involved.
They required my fullest attention at all times. Some days seem to stretch into eternity.
One stormy day before the boys were old enough to go to school, I remember glancing at the clock while we were trapped inside the house. It was only 2:30pm. “How are we going to make it to dinnertime?” I agonized to myself.
But, a funny thing happened when those little boys both grew taller than me and started high school. Suddenly, our time together became finite and limited. An exact number of days. A countdown. Rather than feeling that endless, luxurious stretch of time, instead I feel panicked.
Because time is running out.
They are like trying to capture water or grains of sand in my hand, impossible to hold there forever. Eventually, the handful slips away. My greatest desire, like all parents, is for my children to grow into happy, healthy adults. But watching it happen in front of my eyes is achingly bittersweet.
While all this is going on inside mommy, the opposite happens with the teenagers. I want to hoard every single moment, but they are making other plans (and asking me to drive them there!) They are all about friends, activities, friends. They are focused on asserting their independence and stretching their wings.
Roots and wings. I understand the importance of both for our children. That ultimately, what we are working towards as mothers is to help our kids grow those wings and use them to fly off, to cultivate their own wisdom and scatter beauty in their little corners of the world.
But what if I haven’t imparted all that they’ll need during their flights? What if they need a bit longer for those wings to mature? How can 18 years together possibly be enough time? And who even decided on that number anyway?
Some things I know with certainty. First, they will be ready to launch before I am ready to let them go. I simply must accept that fact. Second, time marches on, which is a blessing, a gift. For now, I’m marching with my boys in their parades, thrilled to take every step possible alongside them. Soon, I will become that spectator on the sidewalk again, grateful for the chance just to watch as they march by.