This has been a summer not about me, or my writing, or my little worlds of interests and thought but very much a time of family and the calm before the storm. It’s a delicious pause which we’d expected to be filled with visits from others but which, in the end, left us, the five of us, together far more often than we normally are in the hustle and bustle of the school year.
There are three bunnies, each equally cherished and unique, very different from one another and the source of great joy in my life (as well as frustration… ever shared a bathroom with a teenage girl!?). The littlest is still quite little, the next, full of maturity yet still very much in need of wing growth before she is ready to be eased from the high branch. The oldest, the one I’d like to speak of here, is on the very cusp of adulthood.
There has been a shift lately in the way I view him, my eldest, my son. I’m falling in love with him all over again, but in a different way than I did when he was born or when he was two and a tumble of curls and deliciously pudgy squeezable arms and legs. It is a love just as achingly intense, but inimitably different. He’s still my child, still my baby, yet there is a respectful distancing, a gentle separation, which has turned him slightly away from me, his gaze set on more distant lands and lives.
I feel this change in him, which may well have been gradual yet has just come to my conscious awareness of it, viscerally and intensely, yet imbued with pleasure, not fear. Confidence, not uncertainty.
While I still nag him about making his bed and worry terribly about how he’s going to ever remember what he has to do next Fall when he can’t even remember what I asked him to do five minutes ago, his departure is not causing me anxiety or melancholy but rather filling me with excitement and pride.
A friend from high school saw some photos of my family and said “They look like people I would like to get to know!” When I look at him these days I observe him quietly, from afar, as if we’d just met.
What I see is a young man strong and self-assured yet never arrogant. He is thoughtful, perceptive and smart. He’s a wonderful son, brother, friend, and will go on, no doubt, to do significant things, to live a life of consequence, but more importantly to me is the fact that I am absolutely certain that others will agree with me, and will find him to be a fine person, to know, to work with, to love…
How many people can say that in the eighteen years since birth their child had never once said anything disrespectful? Never once raised his voice in anger? He has a wisdom and a kindness, an ability (no doubt inherited/learned from his Father who is very similar) to diffuse a potentially explosive situation, to know when to say he’s sorry or when to just leave the other alone to work out their own funk, returning when seas are calm. He has friends of all ilk and has proven to be a good one, one who can be counted on for his kindness, his fairness, his discrete lack of interest in gossip or silly games.
No pats on the back here. We have done our best, but personality and character, while nurtured or thwarted by environment are, I believe, present at birth (or before). I’ve been a parent long enough, a person long enough, to know that relationships change and that in a month or so I may again view him once again as the child I need to admonish or soothe with mama words, but in the meantime, in this brief hiatus, these moments frozen in time, I enjoy seeing him, perhaps for the first time, as a being separate from me, the tree ready to send its own roots out to seek their water, to spread its own branches to create shade or bear fruit. As other, yet always, intrinsically, part of me.
Well maybe I am a wee bit melancholic, but I have a smile on my face…