And so it begins.
Like the start of most journeys, time is the force that edges us out of our comfort zone and makes the inevitable our new reality whether we are ready for it or not. Time keeps slowly ticking away. And we get up and bathe and get dressed and go out and face another day, every day, until one day we wake up and we have a man-boy in our house who starts high school and who occasionally shaves and who keeps growing out of clothes and who dares to have a social life.
I’m pretty sure he was just in kindergarten.
I know that all parents think this—that childhood went by so fast. I didn’t believe them. Not when I had four children within five and a half years of one another trying to throw themselves into the line of passing cars while I held their hands walking into Target. Well, I’m here to tell you mothers-of-young-children: It goes by fast.
And this childhood trolley has just transferred to a bullet train, because during the first week of school my ninth-grader informed me that following the back-to-school dance he was going to an after-party.
Over my dead body.
See, I have a vision of after-parties because way back when I was in high school I went to a few. And while I can’t go into great details of those after-parties because this is a family magazine, let’s just say that they usually erupted when someone’s parents went out of town. There were no cell phones to track us or to document who was there and what went on. It was a different time, and while I was a good kid by 1989 standards, there were many times I was there. And I know that “there” is not where I want this man-boy to be.
“You are paying for your raising,” my dad said with a delighted smirk, when I told him about the situation. “This is awesome. An after-party. I’ve got a front-row seat to watch you handle this high school thing. An after-party…” He kept chuckling and might have said “after-party” a few more times, fondly recalling one night during my senior year when he personally broke up an after-party following a Big Sis, Little Sis high school event. Anyway, he was thrilled that I was now going to be managing the social calendar of a high schooler. “You’re paying for your raising.”
This was a fond saying during my formative years–that one day I would personally pay back all the sleepless nights and worry that I caused my parents. “I can’t wait until you have children. Then you’ll know what this feels like,” my mom said to me during college when I didn’t come in until the wee hours of the morning one summer I was home. “What goes around, comes around,” my father would say to keep me from reaping undesired consequences. “The cream always rises to the top.”
In the milk jug of life, I was supposed to be the cream.
But sometimes even the cream makes bad decisions, and knowing this (and my son) I made a few phone calls. Turns out the so-called after-party was actually pizzas and soft drinks and parent-supervised. And after speaking to the delightful couple I further confirmed that they were good people through intense background checks that included, but were not limited to, investigating their LinkedIn and Facebook pages. So he went.
And this mild party was a great experience with new people met and new friendships started. But I know that this is really just the beginning of a whole high school experience that—ready or not—I’ve got to navigate. I’m not naïve enough to believe that every decision made will be a good one on his part. But these are the formative years, and they are going to happen under my roof. And when the cream doesn’t rise to the top, and when what actually goes around truly comes around, I will be able to remind him that he too will have children one day.
And then, with a smirk, I will be able to lash out with “You’ll be paying for your raising.