to my son
January 16, 2013 § 11 Comments
In the earliest days of motherhood I marked your milestones on calendars, each independent accomplishment was cause for celebration. No one cautioned me that there would come a time when acts of independence would create moments of conflict – joy for your competence and loneliness for the company of your tiny hand forever tugging me along.
Over the years small exercises in independence, natural lessons of choice and consequences have created an awareness that accompanies you in my place. You were intended to let go of my hand and move ahead of me as you create your own path. When loneliness challenges joy, I use that free hand to applaud your strength so that I do not interrupt your progress.
In those moments when I do block your path, it is not an absence of faith for your strength that informs my action, but rather old habit. The murky gray social experiences that we have always navigated together have made me accustomed to interpreting the chaos of the world around you. There is never a question of your ability or character; you are foremost kind and curious, you have a goodness that is pure and solid.
At twelve you still believe in things you cannot see, but you question the decisions of adults whose actions contradict their words. Your opinions are unbending and unapologetic, you have not learned to form yourself into other’s expectations. Your interests are solitary but you give friendship generously with complete loyalty. Even when you brace against a boundary with sharp words or challenge an expectation with a choice, you explain yourself before apologizing – trying to create understanding while acknowledging others’ feelings.
Your father and I in our uncool, sometimes authoritarian rule, impose ourselves on your day exercising our right to claim your time and mandate behavior. We hug you when you feel too big, dictate actions, and question your decisions even as we permit you freedom to fail. For a child that sometimes struggles with social inconsistencies we are creating contradictory expectations of independence and submission.
Here’s a secret: we have forgotten much of our adolescence and we are new to parenting an adolescent. We are forever making choices for the adult we hope you will be while trying to honor the little boy you were. Somewhere in all of this we are getting to know the boy in between who is finding his way. On the days it seems we do not understand and that we are hopelessly unfair, I hope you also see the hands that are forever reaching out to guide and applaud as you find your way in the space between our expectations and your own ambitions.