Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saying goodbye to a fine man.

Rick mentioned saying goodbye to his older son again as the new school year begins. Friday was the day we watched our own Number One Son head back over the mountains for his senior year. It was a good parting, but . . .

This was an uncomfortable summer for Number One. Whenever he comes home for Thanksgiving, spring break, etc., I notice that things change ever so slightly. They're good changes. They're natural changes. But they're still changes.

Number One is far less based here than he was even a year ago. His friends, his support group--his life--are mostly east of the mountains. His high school buddies don't really even come back for the summer anymore. He did get to spend some time with a few members of the old gang, but markedly less than in previous years.

He's in the engineering department at his university. Studying to be a mechanical engineer. He should have had an internship this summer and not been home at all. Unusual circumstances (miscommunication, timing, prior commitment) convened, eliminating his opportunities. A sting he felt keenly. It bothered him for the sake of his future and standing in his department. It hurt his 3.9 GPA pride. It undermined his growing sense of adulthood to have to spend another summer in the bottom bunk of his brother's room.

On the other hand, he was grateful for another summer to water ski. He enjoyed another summer to play and swim and hike with his little brother--bunk beds notwithstanding. He had looked forward to a week long road trip with his sister. But that was another bust. And a story unto itself.

He attended the wedding of two of his friends. A laid back, hippie-ish gathering. Right up Number One's alley. Yet it too was a reminder of things he hasn't yet figured out. He's a good looking kid. He's athletic, intelligent, driven, thoughtful, interesting . . . But he has no idea what to do with girls. How to approach them. How to talk to them. He doesn't know when he's being pursued. He doesn't know when not to pursue. He doesn't realize that he is so worried about coming on too strong and making a girl uncomfortable that his overtures are invisible. Just one more area that I believe he thought he would have a handle on by now.

And there's the matter of his changing relationship with me. He and I, during the junior high and high school years, were very close. We think similarly. We have much in common. Or . . . we did. Not so much any more. Because his life has changed. Because my life has changed. "Slow change may pull us apart," to quote a righteous old 80's tune. Continental drift.

I can see the disappointment in his eyes when Beautiful and I interact like sisters. He doesn't think it's healthy for either of us. And he may be right, but it is what it is. I acutely feel his letdown that I am raising Youngest far differently than I raised him. But he doesn't understand what it is to be 40 and have everything spiral out of control, making you question the value of everything you once thought was so important. He doesn't know the weariness of doing the same job for over 20 years.

I grazed these subjects with him about a week before he packed up and left. He didn't say much, but I recognized that look of sudden understanding and compassion on his face. That moment when he extends grace and allows his mother to be human.

Over his last few days home he decorated my cast with a delightfully silly comic, he bought me a dozen roses, and he put his arm around me for a photo--practically unheard of for my dedicated anti-demonstrative boy.

He may have had a less than stellar summer, but he leaves with maturity and understanding that are hard won. He leaves even more grown up than when he arrived back in May, but for different reasons than anyone could have predicted.

Goodbye again, Son. I hope for your return in November.


Storybook Woods said...

Boy Kristin, he has changed and looks sooo like you. xoxoxox Clarice

Kate said...

really nice entry, very reflective - I enjoyed reading it.

CheekierMeSly said...

I like your Mom thinks posts. Muchly.

CheekierMeSly said...

I like your Mom thinks posts. Muchly.

Mary said...

Wow. What an incredible post, Kristin. You've written so truthfully about being the mother of an adult child, of being in that netherland between acknowledging your child's growth and journey toward becoming an adult and still being the "mother" on so many levels.

In addition you've touched on the changes that birth order, and long term child rearing, brings to our parenting. We have similar age differences in our two houses and our experiences with the difference in raising the eldest vs. the youngest truly are striking.

Regardless of whatever guilt or confusion we feel about our children, I can state emphatically that your children are truly incredible, accomplished and gracious people.

You've done something right. :-)

whitenoise said...

Thoughtful, touching. It's hard to stand back and let them learn to fly solo.

It won't be too many years from now that he'll come home with a girl, and your dynamic will change again.

A few years after that- and you'll be a gram- more adjustment, more time for reflection and re-examining your role...

It's all good, 'mouse. You're lucky for what you have. :-)

countrymouse said...

You guys humble me. Thank you for the supportive comments. I always wonder if I've crossed the boring line when I talk about kid/relationship stuff. But some things I just need to say out loud . . .

Clarice--do you really think he looks like me? His beard is fuller than mine ; )

Yeah Mary--we do share *so* many of the same issues. Thank God for friends to comiserate with!

Thanks for reading Kate and Cheek and Whitenoise. And WN, you hit the nail on the head--I truly am lucky for what I have : )

Rick said...

Well said. This time of life is difficult for all players involved.

Kuckie said...

Kristin, I really enjoyed this post. It made all these little things that Baby Noah is doing now seem so trivial and put them in a new light for me. These times go too quickly and I must enjoy these moments!

You should be so proud of your parenting and your insight!