As I pen words, it is a dreary, soaking-wet, rain-drenched evening outside my sitting room window. We are all drying ourselves out after a torrential down-pour just moments ago, occurring just as we made a run for it from the van to the front steps. This onslaught also occurring after we all had walked through a puddle-slick school parking lot to leave for home, following the Grade 6 closing ceremonies, as that is where we celebrated seven years of completed elementary school education. Our son is amongst the celebrants.
It is hard to put words to paper how one feels on such occasion, as I am sure there are as many emotions as there are mothers and fathers to feel them. I am feeling mixed emotions at present- happiness mixed with a tinge of sadness. Son is gone to a celebration at his friend’s house next door, a party at which I had volunteered to chaperone.
Apparently, he does not really want his mother there tonight. Not a real surprise, but I was a bit hurt about it all just the same. This must be what coming of age feels like for a mother: sadness mixed up with hurt and bruised feelings with an ample dose of pride and love shown for my son’s achievements and new-found independence. It is time for the mother duck to pull back and let her baby duck learn to fly.
I often wonder what is the secret to fostering character building and positive energy in one’s children so that they turn out to be those kinds of people that others call high achievers. Young men and woman of excellence. For we all want this for our children, but how is it that some children have those keys to unlocking the doors to success early on while others are always eluded by it?
I see in my son new behaviours and characteristics, things that make my stomach turn a little. He is not as polite as I would like him to be, not as kind, patient or gentle. And yet, do I point out these glaring omissions in his character or leave things alone? I am not sure what course of action to follow. It is hard when you mix the latter in with high expectations of a big night like tonight. I have come up a bit disappointed with his lack of respect shown toward me this evening- his aloofness and sarcasm.
My son. So much like his mother. We are both quick to react, we have short fuses. We are not naturally empathic. For me, it has been a learned skill. We are impatient with others, he is increasingly so. We both are reclusive and introverted by nature. We are neither gentle nor caring and nurturing in the way some people are born to be, naturally concerned for others.
But that is not to say that these character traits cannot be present, for I believe they can be. In my own life, I have watched carefully the ways in which people respond to one another, the ways in which caring people show love and concern for each other. I have tried to apply those same principles to my own life so that I, one who is not naturally inclined to be NICE, can indeed be a nice person in spite of myself.
And so too, can my son. He has all the abilities. He must choose for himself what course in life he wishes to take: a life of treating others with kindness and respect, particularly as it concerns those people in his closest circle of friends and family. Or not to do so, and fail to understand the richness of a life well lived. At present, he lacks the maturity to see that choosing the latter will burn many bridges for him, and may have already done so even in the present. It is unfortunate to watch your child make mistakes when you know the way they should go. We cannot live another’s life- even if that ‘other’ is our own flesh and blood.
And so. I go anyway- to the party.
I have made a promise to help chaperone, and chaperone I will. I arrive, and I give my son a wide berth. I try not to make eye contact, to not go in the same areas as him. All the while, I notice the little things: my friend’s son with his arm slung across her shoulder, the easy banter I have with Son’s classmates and friends, the gentle conversation between me and a sweet girl named J. that will also be moving on to Grade 7. I notice that Son is avoiding me. It hurts, for a time. But, then I realize that this is his problem, not mine. It is his issue, not mine. And, I carry on- thankful that I can be a part of this evening that celebrates the life of my child and his classmates.
And by the end of the evening, I think Son realizes something too- his Mom is not as embarrassing as he thought. In fact, now that everyone else is talking to me, he actually comes up to me at a point in the evening and asks me a question. I could have been knocked over flat with a feather.
Which just goes to show that strange things do happen, wishes do come true and miracles are still possible.