The Pain & Joy of Roots & Wings

by - 7:57 PM

I leaned over to pat his knee, neither of us spoke, I couldn’t even look at him as I drove, I knew I had to keep it together because I wondered if he could, I wondered if I could.  Even then I was nudging him to the next level. 

“Be brave, give all that you’ve got, be strong” my soul softly whispered to his.

When we got to her bedside we didn’t know how long just that it was the irrefutable end.  There wasn’t going to be any more magic, from her or the doctors.  This time it was real, his Aunt, my sister-in-law and a woman I considered one of my dearest friends that he, we, all loved and adored could not fight her advancing cancer any longer, and we, he, as it ended up, was going to be there until the end, to help her move on.

My son had entered that hospital room that morning scared and heartbroken and as the light faded on the day, he would leave that room with a maturity and strength that one gains only from an emotional boot camp of illness and death.

That was a year ago.

What I have learned from this child, among many things, is that the magic of children isn’t in their successes, it’s in the moments that build up to those successes, when you aren’t quite sure what you’ve put into them is going to present itself.  And it does.

There were times with this boy when I thought he would never mature and I felt I was always nudging him in his relationships with friends and family. 

“Don’t be so impulsive, please be patient with your siblings, be nicer to them… to us” I chided.

As this boy struggled with ADD I would nudge him to do better in school. 

“Pay attention, get organized, you can do it” I would encourage, sometimes rage.

Sometimes, and sometimes often, we would yell at each other over school for so long I would go to bed exhausted, resigned.  A smart child who could never feel successful in the classroom, he would hide his school papers in the rain boots that were lined up at the front door as he came in and proclaim that he had done his homework.  When we discovered the hiding place he moved to stuffing them under and inside the couch.

But this boy wasn’t all frustrating to deal with.  For as many tantrums as he threw he had kind and happy moments, like at age three when he held my hair back as I emptied out the contents of my stomach after a bout of morning sickness while pregnant with his sister, at age seven when he pulled out a book and read to his newborn baby brother for the first time, his great love of bikes, music, books and movies, his love for his family, especially his cousins. 

Even as he hated the new rescue dog that I crazily brought home, “Just try” I nudged him, “…please.”

And he did, that dog and he are best of friends, because they both tried.

From the time they are born you are busy packing their bags to go, to grow, to be their own people and today, we packed him off for college.  So there will be less nudging as that boy, now a young man is off to do great things, to explore and become his own person.  For me it is a mixture of pain and great joy.  The silence in the house with one less is deafening and I have yet to peek into his room, but, after today, I know that for all of the silence and emptiness that is felt when a child leaves home, what is left behind is the richness of the time that we have them.  

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  1. ...I remember Matty's first day of school well. Now he's a senior. I don't even want to think about when he leaves for college!

  2. Oh! they grow so fast! My husband and I both likened that day to his first day of school too. Senior year is a busy time mixed with a little bit of stress ;) Good Luck!

    PS: I have a Matty too but with two dd's, he's 11.