At the risk of sounding cliche, I’ve decided that today is going to be about reflection. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do Flashback Friday, guys. There are a lot of moms out there dealing with graduations, kids leaving home, kids heading to their first day of Kindergarten. This time of year there’s a lot of reflecting going on.
Last month my oldest son left for Marine Corps boot camp. Ever since he was little, he’s been fiercely independent, opinionated and stubborn. So he’s pretty much like his mother. But from the time he was born, he was my little buddy. His father and I were rarely together and the marriage was unraveling. So for the most part, it was me and the little guy.
When I was younger, I never imagined myself having children. But when that clock started ticking and I realized I wanted to have a baby, everything changed. And from the second I found out he was on the way, that child was everything. When I saw that little face, my heart just about exploded. It’s hard to explain what it’s like; the first time you see your baby. For someone who’d spent the majority of her life being pretty selfish, suddenly everything became about him.
He was a gorgeous baby. Everyone thinks their baby is gorgeous, but guys, he was a show stopper. Beautiful eyes, big pouty lips and the sweetest laugh. When his hair grew it was a curly mop of luxuriousness even Robert Plant would have been envious of. He was strong-willed from the beginning, too busy doing his own thing to be particularly cuddly, and always wanting to do everything himself.
At first it broke my heart that he always got so upset whenever I tried to help him do anything. But I knew that this meant he would be strong. He would do what needed to be done. And he was always the one who needed my help the least, out of all the kids. His first day of preschool he waved at me and gleefully ran into the building. I cried all the way to work that day. He cried when I came to pick him up. 😀
But I knew he would be fine.
And he was. Fast forward to 2016 and my baby graduated high school. His childhood years were not without difficulties, but we got through it. As I watched him walk across that stage at his graduation, I saw the previous 18 years flash before my eyes. I wasn’t ready. There was still so much I had to teach him. Where did it all go? What the hell happened? I was proud and yet, I felt I could’ve been better. During those years I went through a lot (divorce, remarriage, depression, several major surgeries), and at times I wasn’t the best I could’ve been. I was angry a lot, depressed a lot, not emotionally tuned in like I feel I should have been. But despite it, here we were. I did the best I could in spite of everything I was going through personally, and it was up to him now.
I think I cried for weeks from graduation on. Just because, well, you realize that that little baby you once cradled and loved so fiercely is no more. Now they are grown. The love is still there, but we have to let go of a lot of what we’ve literally lived a breathed for 18 years. We have to let them live their own life.
Even though he and I had had our rough patches (we butted heads a lot during his latter teen years), and he’d long past the days when kids are ok kissing their moms in public, he surprised me.
I’m sure I was fresh off a surgery of some sort, standing on the sidelines with no makeup and feeling heavy and icky, but none of that matters because this photo is everything, guys.
“I’m Joining The Marines”
The words hit me in the gut. I knew what they meant. But no matter how scared I was or how terrifying the prospect of sending my kid out to who knows what, I knew it was something he could do. I knew it meant that he would get out into the world and that honestly, he could use some boot camp. His dad was having difficulties of his own, and he didn’t need to get caught up in it. There comes a time in everyone’s life that they have to fly. This was his time.
Despite my brain conjuring up all the scenarios a mom doesn’t want to imagine for her child, I swallowed and told him I was proud of him, and he began the process of enlistment. It took about 6 months from the point he walked into the recruiter’s office until the day he left. When he got into the transport van to MEPS and waved back at us, it took everything in me to keep it together. All I could see was that little curly haired guy, gleefully running into daycare, waving at me shouting “Bye, Mom!”
Standing there with his younger brother and sister, I struggled to keep back the tears. I wanted him to see me standing strong, smiling. I held it together until I got back into the Jeep to ride home. Even still, I sucked it up reasonably enough to drive, but when I got home I ran straight to the privacy of my “office” (aka my bathroom) and let the tears flow. I knew it was going to be a transformative experience for him. I knew he needed it. I knew he needed to fly out into the world. I wanted him to see that I was ok with that; supportive of that. But still, the mother in me needed a moment.
And off he went.
Here we sit 7 weeks later and I’ve received several letters. His attitude is positive, and he is enjoying a lot of it. I was so relieved. And yesterday I received this:
It’s a card for me to pick up a corsage before the Marine Corps graduation ceremony.
My kid, with his own money, bought his mom a corsage. Cue the waterworks again, people. My heart can’t take it.
Are you having a Flashback Friday moment? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!