Last night I arrived home just in time to say goodbye to my boys as my husband whisked them off to karate class. I was a little disappointed that the one night I come home semi-on-time, they have some place else to be. There was a part of me, though, that was thankful for a little quiet, a little time alone without anyone expecting anything of me.
I grabbed my laptop and sank gratefully onto the couch. After a few minutes of perusing social media, I turned to my email. My eye landed on one email with the subject line "Important Information and Dates for 8th Graders" which had been sent by my son's middle school. Upon opening it, I discovered that the important information and dates didn't really have anything to do with middle school. It was all about high school.
I'm fairly certain my heart stopped for a brief moment.
High school. Why, in my few moments of peace and quiet, did they have to remind me that my baby would be starting high school in the fall? I wasn't ready to face that reality.
My mind wandered back to that day that couldn't possibly have been more than a couple of years ago when the nurse walked my husband and me out of the hospital to our car and helped us strap our newborn son into his car seat. I remember vividly the frantic voice screaming in my head, "Are you crazy? You can't leave him alone with us! He's just a baby and we don't know how to take care of babies! We are completely clueless!"
I was a nervous wreck the whole way home, watching the cars around us suspiciously. When I was in college and would have to make the drive between Santa Clara and Santa Barbara, my father would always warn me to watch out for the other idiots. I was convinced that I was now surrounded by them and one was sure to cause harm to my baby.
That, of course, was only the beginning of my fears. The first days were filled with me running to my mother and asking her if the noise Jared was making was normal. It took him a while to catch on to the whole breast-feeding thing, so I was worried about that. As he got older there were new worries. I hated taking him to the park because I was certain he would fall off the play structure and get hurt. I worried (and cried!) the first day I dropped him off at day care when I returned to work. Every day there was something that caused me at least one anxious moment.
I thought it would get easier as he got older, but I realize now that even bigger fears lie before me. In a couple of years he will start driving. There will be dating and friendships and heartbreak and tough classes and temptations I don't even want to think about. When he was a baby, the mistakes were all mine to make. Now they are his. What little control I had before has dwindled into next to nothing. It's pretty much all up to him now. I am all too aware that some mistakes are unforgiving and offer no second chances. Therein lies my greatest fear.
When the boys returned from karate last night, Jared came and sat beside me on the couch. Together we viewed online some of the course descriptions for electives. I asked him if he was excited, and he said, "No." I don't really think that's true. He certainly was eager to share with me the packet they were given to plan their four years of high school to prepare them for their life beyond. He also seemed very interested in a couple of the classes we looked at and talked about his plans to take AP classes.
Perhaps, like me, he knows the next four years will come and go faster than a tear travels down a cheek. Perhaps, like me, he is a little afraid of what happens next.
But I've been where he is, so I have a pretty good idea what happens next. As he continues to grow into the young man he is becoming, he will grow farther away from the baby that was mine. The one I was so scared to take home, I now am so scared to have leave. But leave he will. That day is coming, and all too quickly, when once and for all, he will let go of my hand and make his way through this world without me by his side.
I hope he understands if I hold onto him just a little more tightly while I still can.