Two weeks ago, we brought our first baby home from the hospital.
Right? Wasn’t it just two weeks? Maybe not. Maybe it was just two weeks ago that he learned to walk? No, no. It was two weeks ago that he started kindergarten. That’s it, right?
Of course not, of course not. But it does indeed feel like it. I finally settle myself in a chair for two minutes to catch my breath and realize that fifteen years have gone by like that, a snap, a blink, the time it takes to look up from tying his shoes and off he goes, starting the car to drive us down the highway.
So last week, our boy Ethan had his first and second days on the job. He is a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool — the one we conveniently belong to — and as the two of us headed over to bring him to his first day of work I think we were tied for Person in Most Disbelief.
“Do you want anything to eat before you go,” I asked my boy. He said no, he was feeling too nervous. So off we went and we were both quiet for the ride. He was no doubt going over safety precautions and reviewing important bits of information from his class.
I, of course, was having a myriad of emotions — is this really happening? He can’t possibly be old enough for this! It seems like only yesterday that he was a newborn. It seems like last month that I was starting my first job.
As I drove us towards the pool, I reflected on my first summer job — one my dad got for me when I was the age Ethan is now. I worked at an ecology lab helping track amphibians at a bomb plant. It was every bit as thrilling as it sounds — so fun, and I loved every minute of working there.
I wanted to tell my boy, as we sat there staring out the front windshield, that the days of uncertainty would pass quickly. That before he knew it, he would be an old pro. That the hardest part of anything new is just starting, just putting one foot in front of the other.
It reminded me of the times I have moved to a new city, started a new job, started new seasons as a wife and mother and professional. It’s all about taking the plunge and getting situated and getting through to the fun part.
I told my boy some of these things, but I have also learned, as the mother of boys, that sometimes less is more. My husband tuned me into this concept years ago when he would hear me having heart-to-heart talks with my young boys which he would later describe as “pedantic.” “You could probably relax a little,” he lovingly told me after one lecture session.
“What do you mean,” I asked. To me I was simply driving home a point (maybe it was stranger danger, maybe it was learning to cross the road safely), but to the outside ear I was, um, freaking out.
So I learned to temper my emotions (a tad). I learned that sometimes, with boys, less is more. That after the first three sentences they tune out, so make those first three count. I learned that using a feverish pitch is not effective in getting my point across, that keeping a tone that is sane and level-headed does wonders in making your children feel comfortable in your presence.
That day, as we headed to the pool, less was more. I didn’t go over all the rules. I didn’t quiz my son on all he needed to know. I sat, I remembered, I listened, I waited. I trusted.
And I looked. I glanced to my right and saw the face of my son, the boy who is still my baby but also a young man. A fine young man who is a delight and a joy.
When my boys were babies, I feared the future. I hated the thought of them leaving, of them getting bigger and having a life outside of our home, a life outside of me.
And now we are here. And it is a marvelous place to be.
This column originally appeared in The Southern Cross.