So many thoughts bubbling up to the surface in contemplation of Son #1 graduating from high school this Sunday. Of course pride in his accomplishing all that he did in a short 13 years of public school education. His becoming the total person he is goes back even farther than that. To the kind young lady who loved him so much while his mom and dad were at work and he was still a tiny little baby. (Oh, those days when I would thumb through the baby picture book at the office and get that lump in my throat and tear in my eye and wonder if anyone could miss him more than me--and if it was fair to him for me and his dad to be working outside the home? Such Big Doubts.) And yes, even before that, wondering, while pregnant, if I would even like being a mom in the first place! Something fundamental instantaneously changed in me the first time I saw that boy. So tiny! Such RED hair! So very perfect--the "just right" kid for me. How would I EVER know how to be his best mother?
Somehow, through finding the right daycare situation, many doubts, many worries, and much help, Dan and I managed to "bring up baby". The infant who was so chubby as to be nicknamed "The Michelin Baby" grew up tall and strong. I wished for a Nature Boy, and I got one. One day after a long time being outside, I asked him what he had been doing. It turned out that he build a hammock out of grapevines and then climbed in it and took a nap, under the sky and trees on a warm summer afternoon. He retreats to the creek ("I'm just going down to the creek, Mom") just like I used to do when I would walk a block or two to the beach and just sit there or walk and think. It was like going to "the Real Church" for me and I might guess the same is true for him.
I remember a pile of paper destined for the recycling bin that was brought home from the office for the boys to use to color on--and then they were turned into architectural wonders with an assist of miles of tape and a few hundred staples. That phase lasted a couple of years....and while I worried over the "wasted" papers, staples and tape, I knew that he was being creative and developing "fine motor skills" so I just watched in awe as a small city took shape. Over and over again.
It seemed as if he had barely learned to read before he and his friends discovered Harry Potter, then the Redwall series. He gave up on HP when it turned darker, but he lusted for more of Brian Jacques and could never get enough. (We mourned his passing last year.) I shared my favorites with him as he got older: Peter Mathiason, Jon Krakauer, Anais Nin, Steinbeck, Twain. Some stuck, some did not. One of my favorite "Mama Moments" is wondering where my kid is, only to find him lost in the pages of a book.
How my husband's personality came, almost directly, barely skewed at all, out of my body, in the form of a new person, is something that astonishes me. Yet there it is in Andrew. He has that tender heart, but it doesn't often show. Unless you are a pet. Or an elderly person. He mumbles down (just like his dad) and wonders what is wrong with my hearing. He looks through the fluff to the core of the situation and finds the most direct solution to any problem. He can take things apart, and even more importantly, he can put them back together. He is blessed with a quick mind and cursed with (uh oh, something he got from me) a dry sarcastic sense of humor. He doesn't suffer fools or complainers. He is a hard worker and catches on quickly, but woe to the boss who does not keep him busy! (I declined to employ him this summer...let someone ELSE keep that boy working!) He has also sucked some home-repair skills out of his dad: wiring, dry-wall, painting, laying down flooring. While I'm fairly certain he can change a lightbulb, it sometimes takes him weeks to make it happen. Not sure why. He can speak Geek. ('Not positive about this, but he may have gone all the way through Geek III before he graduated!) He has told me that he likes planning big projects, then executing them. Once they are completed, he really doesn't enjoy the end result as much as the planning and the doing....so would this make him a good PROCESS engineer? Is there such a thing? He planned the total reorganization of our home, and Eagle Scout project and a Man Cave in the basement....now he can organize his LIFE....
What I worry about: Of course a mother worries over the health of her kids. 17 stitches to close various softball facial lacerations in an 11 year old kid and he never complained. A broken ankle in a sledding mishap on a tree-packed hillside? Just crawl back up, on hands and knees. No problem. Four years in braces--those socially critical four high school years? No problem there either. So, I guess I really do need to find something else to worry over. It really comes down to what I told the priest when we had the "baptism meeting" back in early 1994. My biggest concern for my kids was honestly, truly that they not be lazy. I have seen what guts and determination (after all, I was raised by a first generation Finnish-American mother who taught me all about "SISU") can do for any given average person. My biggest concern is that my kids might not be willing to work, really work, for what they want to accomplish. There was a lot of "push from behind" to accomplish that Eagle Scout award. Not so much to study those calculus homework problems. The thing is: I've never observed Andrew having to work very hard for his grades. Being a relatively smart kid, he would study what he needed to, no more, and it was generally just fine. I worry over him getting caught unaware of just how demanding his college courses can be. But then again, I want him to be challenged so that he gets really excited about learning something new. I want him to catch intellectual fire and be consumed with learning something that really "hits" him in both his heart and head. That is the very best. Worth every last nickel of that college tuition!
The other thing I worry about? That he really has no understanding of just how much his younger brother looks up to him and admires him--and thinks he can do ANYthing. What a gift Matt is to Andrew!!
What the Kid #1 will never truly understand is just how special his mother thinks he is as well. I don't just THINK he can do whatever he sets his mind to, I KNOW it with every fiber of who I am. The ONLY thing that could hold him back is his not being willing to work, REALLY WORK, the unrelentingly, turning-off-the-XBox, ignore text messages, take-only-potty-breaks and eat-while-working, THAT kind of hard-but-exciting-sometimes-drudge WORK. He has to figure out who he wants to be (he may be mostly there already one that one) and what he wants to accomplish in this lifetime and then just be willing to do what it takes to accomplish that.
I am in awe of my kids. I worked so hard when I was their age and didn't have nearly as many activities (and certainly not any of the myriad distractions they have!) and wasn't able to be as talented and accomplished as them at any of the things they are doing--and they are involved in far more than their mom or dad were! I have no idea how they manage it all! (Oh. Wait. Yes I do. Dan and I do what WE can too, to support them--but still the work comes from their desire.) Lots of Leroy parent carpools, scout leaders, wonderful dear friends (especially the ones who would tell me "you need to relax"!!), teachers, Laurel & crew at Forever Young, coaches, directors, good neighbors, supportive and inspiring church family, those bus drivers (yes, the good ones, of course. And the ones who the kids sorta had to watch out for as well!), those first two years at Leroy School....so much coordinated effort goes into getting Andrew to this point. I could not have gotten him here by myself alone--and you know what?--I don't think that it was possible for him to become himself with "just" Dan and me, even together. It truly DOES take an entire village. And therein really does lie the richness of our intertwined lives.
While I will admit to being a bit choked up in looking forward to graduation on Sunday, there is such a big piece of "Mama Ego Moment" tied up with Kid #1 and this stepping stone, so I will sit with pride and beam out my heart to him. "Let the wild rumpus begin..."