Sunday, January 28, 2018
I still remember the first day the Heir went to kindergarten. As I put him on the bus and watched it pull away, the thought that ran through my mind was not, 'Oh, my big boy is growing up', or 'I hope he makes lots of friends', or even 'I hope he enjoys it'. It was, 'Well, my baby is now part of the system.'
Indeed, for the first few years of their lives, I was lucky enough to have my kids with me 24/7. Granted, I didn't always feel lucky. Sometimes I just wanted a break. But all that time together, especially with my firstborn, meant that his entire concept of what the world is came from me. What power! What responsibility! Yes, that first day alone with him, after my parents had left and my husband went back to work, was terrifying. But once I got the hang of things, I loved playing and singing and reading and walking with him. I was shaping him and his perception of the universe.
So it's not surprising that, once he became part of "the system" of public education, recognizing that I was relinquishing that power was tough. He was going to learn things from other people, people who might not see the world as I do, and might have different views from mine. What if they teach him to be fearful the world instead of curious? What if he learns to hate? What if they RUIN ALL THE WORK I'VE DONE?
The fact is, our kids are shaped by their experiences. As much as I'd have loved to encase mine in bubble wrap to protect them, it would have done more damage than good. And even when they went off to school for a few hours a day, they still lived with me and I knew everything about them and their lives.
When the Heir went off to college this past fall, our communication dwindled. That was hard for me. When he was in high school, we would text several times a day and have dinner together every evening, so I knew about his hobbies, his struggles, his friends, and his likes and dislikes. Now it could be days before I'd hear, and even then it's a "hey, how's everyone at home? Things are good here." I know him well, I tell myself, despite the distance and the new experiences he's having at college. Even if he doesn't share them with me, of course he's still the same person.
Or so I thought.
The last time he was home, he and his girlfriend were watching a movie together one evening and I passed through the room to move some laundry around. Well. Talk about a shock.
APPARENTLY, MY SON IS ADDICTED TO GOSSIP GIRL.
He swears the writing and dialogue are great. The plots are interesting and engaging. The acting is terrific. As one who reads and watches TV to help inform my writing, it sounds reasonable. But I can't help but wonder if he's just saying that to help me get over my shock. If anyone asked me about my son, "rabid fan of Gossip Girl" would never have crossed my mind or passed my lips.
What this experience has underscored for me is that, as well as I know my kids, they are their own individual people and have their own lives. No matter how great they are at communicating with me, I will never know everything about them, their internal lives or all the pieces that make up who they are.
In reality, this is just a continuation of the journey that began all those years ago as the kindergarten bus pulled away. For me, it's been a journey of steps away from him as he becomes his own person. For him, it's a continuing journey toward himself.
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