“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.” ~ Jim Morrison
By the time this article is published, my son will have turned 18. I find it hard to believe that I’m old enough to have a child who is, by the legal definition, an adult. As I’ve pondered this milestone, I realized something… my son has not become the person I expected him to be.
His father envisioned him to be athletic, but Charlie doesn’t like sports. I planned for him to develop my love for reading, but Charlie doesn’t like to read. I planned for college and a great career, and at this point, I’m just praying for high school to be over with. Charlie’s dad and I had visions of living vicariously through our son, the hopes and dreams we had for ourselves mirrored in who he would grow to be.
Instead, Charlie has become his own person and it’s not everything I thought it would be.
As I began to understand this, I also learned the dirty little secret of parenting: kids ultimately grow up and (GASP!) develop free will and their own opinions. You don’t think about that when you’re cradling your infant. Terrible twos? HA! A cakewalk compared to the teenage years when free will and independence take on their ugliest forms. It’s a hard truth to accept. Those who have been there know exactly what I’m talking about. Those who have young children or are planning their families – hate to burst your bubble, but I believe in being brutally honest. Brace yourself. You’ll go through it, too.
It’s a hard pill to swallow. Once upon a time, you could buckle your kid in a car seat and make them go to the store anyway. Sooner or later, they get to big for that and they can say no. What are you going to do about it? Wrestle a man-child who is twice your size into the car when they are equally determined to NOT do what you want them to do? The best you can do is to pray your children will eventually mirror the values you taught them. In the meantime, they will test the waters and they will even possibly succumb to bizarre and radical ideas they hear about from the media and friends. You won’t be able to do anything about it because, let’s face it – as the parent, you’re stupid. You have to accept this.
My son and I have been close. We’ve fought. We’ve loved each other and disliked each other immensely. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve bonded. We’ve looked at each other not understanding anything about the other. There are times when I’ve been convinced my son was taken over by aliens.
I’ve had to accept a lot of things as a mother. Mostly, I’ve had to accept that my son isn’t exactly who I expected him to be.
While there are a few characteristics I expected from my grown son that didn’t quite come through, what has happened is this: He is generous. He is kind. His loyalty to his girlfriend and friends is exceptional. He is patient (most of the time). He loves with all his heart. One of the characteristics I most admire about him is his willingness to give second chances. I’m not as good at this as he is, but his ability to forgive and truly forget is amazing.
It also makes him incredibly vulnerable, which is something that adds to his character.
I’m not going to pretend that my son has grown up to be who I wanted him to be. He’s much more. And I’m happy to accept that.