Until recently, it never occurred to me that I’m raising men.
Little boys, yes.
Such a strange epiphany. Even as their voices grew deeper, body hair started to sprout, and they began to smell all the time, I was still infatuated with this idea that they were my little boys. My babies.
I mean … seriously.
What do I know about men? I dated a few … I married one.
For the life of me, I still can’t figure them out. They say and do weird things. They communicate completely wrong. Half the time they make no sense. Only now do I realize that I’m responsible for raising not just one, but two of them.
As I look up to them, I realize that it’s gone way too damned fast and now I have no idea what I’m doing. I thought in the beginning that I had this motherhood thing figured out. Snuggles and naps were definitely my speed. Legos and matchbox cars were easy. Whiffle ball and tee ball were a breeze. Prayers and giggles and bedtime stories were completely down my alley. Even middle school wasn’t that hard… except the math because let’s face it, I’m not smarter than a fifth grader.
But now it’s driving and independence, teenage awkwardness, late nights, girls, and college. While I thought my job was big before, it’s even more daunting now. Especially because they’re always pulling away to talk to someone more important or do something more interesting.
I might be screwed. Worse yet; they may be screwed.
I feel grossly unprepared and I realize this far too late as I’m already in the thick of it.
I wasn’t prepared when they became too big to carry.
I wasn’t prepared when they stopped holding my hand in public.
I wasn’t prepared when they stopped calling me ‘mommy’ and started calling me ‘mom.’
Now I’m wondering how I’m going to guide them into adulthood. At times it feels I’ve barely gotten myself there. I hardly feel qualified to be a fully functional adult. Now I have young men in my house and I’m supposed to help them navigate their way through what’s left of their high school years and into productive adulthood.
I know what kind of men I don’t want them to be.
So I start by encouraging the opposite while building on the positive characteristics they already possess. Its a fine balance not to strip away who they are because I think they should be more or less of something else. In my deepest heart, I know I was meant to be a boy mom. But I still don’t know how to be a man. I just know how to not be one and I hope that still means I can teach them a few things.
I work with that because it’s all I know. I also know that I’m still mourning the loss of my tiny toothless miracles whose universe once revolved around me. Now they just grunt and speak in halting sentences that I can barely decipher.
I don’t think I knew it was going to happen this way but if I was smarter, I would’ve seen it coming.
I knew they would grow up, graduate from high school, and eventually leave the nest. Still I underestimated the timeline. I was prepared to let them go after they graduated from high school but the reality is, they’re separating from me now and I haven’t done my job yet.
The desperation as I recount every life lesson I’ve ever tried to teach them, is real. Was I articulate enough? Did I set a good example? Did we talk enough about consensual and safe sex, drugs, addiction, alcoholism, driving carefully and soberly, how to treat the young women they’re dating, the importance of hard work, integrity, being a good human, standing up for what’s right, and making good choices … every scenario flies through my head and I wonder…
Is it ever going to be enough?
I realize there must be countless mothers who wonder the same thing? Even the cigarette-smoking, windows closed in the car, let your kids play outside unsupervised until it gets dark generation, still had to have the same fears? The helicopter parents absolutely must.
Still, all I know so far is that I thought I knew what I was doing. Then I woke up and felt unexpectedly ill-prepared for what are possibly going to be the most important, if not most memorable, years of my young men’s lives.
So check on me in the next few years. I’ll be alternating between confident, faking it, and an emotional disaster as I try not to screw up what remains of my sons’ high school lives. I’ll continue trying to help them become a far better person than I am, while encouraging their individuality and a strong sense of self.
Maybe, if I’m lucky I’ll be strong enough and smart enough to learn more about myself too. But as the timeline narrows I realize how much I’m going to miss them. Then I think, maybe I’m not such a garbage parent after all.
With all of the love that fills my heart for them, with all of the mistakes and lack of ability, perhaps I’m not that terrible. It could be that I’m just winging it like every other parent on the planet. Squeezing my eyes closed, hanging on for dear life, and praying like hell that they’ll remember that I did something right.
Then maybe when they have kids of their own one day, they’ll look at me and tell me that in spite of my flaws and many mistakes, they’re incredibly happy and healthy.
Then I might be able to exhale because only then I would finally know, that in spite of the fear and doubt, and the many sleepless night, somehow… I did it.
Somehow… I was enough after all.