6/30/2011

End of One Era - Start of a New One

My firstborn son, Will, the one I thought I'd never have (years of infertility treatments and surgeries before I could even conceive him) graduated from high school this past June. It's a cliche that your children grow up before you know it and I have found it to be true. While particular moments drag on forever (especially those evenings when you come home tired from work, only to find you have to drive 3 different kids to 3 different sports or activities- and one of them isn't even your own child - somehow cook dinner, the dog threw up on your shoes, a major appliance breaks, your husband is out of town so there is no one to help, the phone keeps ringing from telemarketers(in spite of being on the "no call list"), one kid suddenly announces he needs to go to the store to buy something absolutely essential for school, while the other announces he has a major project due tomorrow that he hasn't even begun), the fun ones fly by all too fast. I miss those summer days when I all I did was take them to the pool, we came home and snuggled together over story time, took bubble baths, played with dinosaurs/trains/ cars at bedtime.
I complain about my sons a lot, but that is mostly just my schtick to keep from bragging. Both boys are blessedly healthy and smart and full of wonder, humor and unique activities/personality traits. Will has amazing talents in music, art (drawing and painting), and a deep natural athleticism in multiple sports. He is no slouch in reading and writing, either (his ELA AP test was his highest score). While he has always struggled with math, he is interested in and shown a talent in various sciences - his physics teacher came up to me this past year and said he was a "born engineer, and the work he did in class was not just 'math vomit' (nonsense)." Will is the gentle son, a bit of a dreamer, too shy to ever go into a store and ask a clerk about where to find something, extremely helpful around the house, a safe driver, calm of temperament, loving to all. I have often thought it was his multiple abilities that have kept him from finding a particular direction or career interest; he just can't seem to narrow his interests down to one area. Lately he spends all his free time writing and recording songs on his computer and posting them to the internet, but previous hobbies have included obsessively tossing a football, doodling/drawing/crafting/making things, ripping apart old toys and reconstructing them in amusing ways to make something new.
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We struggled with him all last fall, trying to get him to apply to this college or that. Our efforts to get him to diversify, to hedge his bets by applying to multiple places were met with his clear, determined, unilateral focus on just one goal: In spite of all our encouragement, he was determined to go only to UT Austin and fought us every step of the way. UT requires a student be in the top 8% of his or her graduating class for admission these days. Will's class rank was 8.243. He didn't get in.

I have often worried that I spoil my children too much, have tried to shelter them from all the harsh realities I faced at way too young an age. Will, especially had a rocky start, as his biological father decided to file for divorce when I was 4 months pregnant with him, and I had to move back home for a short period while I went through that divorce and got back on my feet, financially. Life smoothed out for us both when hubster and I got married, and hubster has always loved Will as his own child. We don't use the word "step" anything: step-father, step-child, etc, in our family. Hubster took us both into the fold of his large, well-off family and we have treasured being a part of his extended clan. From the time he can remember, Will has lived a stable, well off, safe and nurturing life. Private schools, summers at the beach, world travel, music lessons - the whole nine yards. Sometimes I despair that I have over-protected him and made him soft. I worry that he is unprepared to meet life's difficulties.
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Not getting in to his first choice college is the first real bump in the road Will has had to face. UT offered him something called the "CAP" program, which is like being on the waiting list. If he attends any UT satellite campus, and if he can pull a B average, he is automatically accepted and does not even have to re-apply to UT Austin, the main (and more prestigious) campus. We looked at all the satellite campuses and choose San Antonio for a myriad of reasons (Will feeling a need to get away from the uber conservative Baptist Republican north Texas milieu, he has severe allergies up here as well, and needed a different climate to see if they would not be as prevalent in a different place). So off he goes this fall to UT San Antonio, to see if he can get it together, make the grade, and get himself off to UT the year after that. We all know that is a pretty tall order, as one's freshman year is not always one's best, academically speaking. It will be the true test of his determination.
When he goes off to college, Will leaves behind him a younger brother he has, in typical fashion, spent most of his life complaining about and yet spends most of his hours of the day with: playing video games, listening to music, driving around town to movies and fast food restaurants, arguing with, throwing things at, wrasslin', sharing-er-stealing each others clothes, etc. The two of them have had the run of the entire upstairs of our large rambling house for years, as the master bedroom is downstairs and the grownups never go upstairs. At an early age, Will taught his little brother how to climb down the fire pole and shimmy back up with pockets crammed full of cookies. Not sure what little bro is going to do without big bro around. We made sure Will's computer has Skype, so we can all talk to each other when he's gone, but that just won't be the same.

I always say: adolescence exists so you, as a parent, won't miss that adorable little baby any more. Your child becomes so annoying that you are more than ready for them to leave. I have had enough of the turmoils of a house full of young men: the stink and messiness, the huge grocery bills, the noise, a line of battered cars parked out front. But I also know I will miss Will when he is gone. The house has already been eerily quiet this summer, as he spends more time out with friends than home. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I want him to grow up and be a normal, functioning adult, with a life of his own. I came from such a dysfunctional, emotionally destructive home that I left at 18 and vowed never to return. I didn't come back, not even for holidays, till I went through a divorce and had to, out of necessity. I hope Will feels differently about us. I hope he will walk that narrow line between being independent, yet coming back to visit some. I hope we will find a way to re-create our life patterns that will incorporate adult children and their friends into it.

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