My mom used to tell me about this strange phenomenon that all mothers eventually experience. She described it to me through eloquent words and sometimes tears.
This same phenomenon was spoken about during my years of studying psychology.
"It's normal" the books read "A developmental stage that the majority of women will pass through."
Empty nest is what they call it. That weird time in a woman's life when her children grow up, step into the world, and need her less and less with each passing day, until one day she wakes up, all her kids have moved away and inevitably become so busy with their own lives that they forget to call and check-in.
Admittedly I'm not there yet, but the process is beginning. My mother's openness, my studies in psychology and the sorrows shared with me by a dear friend of mine make me all the more sensitive to the process.
And although I have a toddler currently asleep next to me, one playing with hot wheels cars, and one teaching himself to play the piano, I can't help but to grieve and shed the seemingly nonstop stream of tears that comes along with knowing that tomorrow my son will graduate high school and move 8 states away to attend college in Vermont.
The truth is that I'm unprepared. I gave birth to Leighton when I was just 16 years old. I was clueless. My immaturity led me to make many mistakes throughout his upbringing. Mistakes that started within the very 1st month of his life when I decided it was okay to leave him laying on the bed while I went downstairs to make a bottle of formula. He rolled off of the bed of course (He's always been advanced for his age). He cried, and I held him until he stopped.
I always remember that incident because it would serve as some strange omen of being a young mother to a perfect son. I would innocently do something unorthodox, or slightly negligent, and he would suffer some consequence from it, but we would both come out better on the other end of it.
I was always too young to be his mother. I'm still too young to be his mother. I'm 35 and he's 19 preparing for a move to the mountains. I'm too young to experience these highs and lows of being proud of him but also mourning his childhood.
The psych student in me is screaming "It's unhealthy to ruminate on the past!" The Holy Spirit is guiding me in moving forward while counting my many blessing, my own mother is reminding me that things happen the way they were intended, but my simple human nature can't help but wonder if I were a good enough mother. I can't help but think back on the things I wish I could have done differently.
I pray that my regrets are not the same as his, and I pray that in his eyes I was enough.
The sad truth is that Leighton and I grew up together. Our age difference (and the fact that for some reason I've always looked much younger than my true age) made us more like siblings or cousins than mother and son. During his childhood I was a mom who was still figuring herself out, still working on a young relationship, and still working towards an education and career in psychology.
Like so many other mothers I put the most basic needs of my child on the back burner. I look back on his childhood and I wish I would have been a more present mom, not one with a full-time job, or one chasing an utterly useless college degree, or even worse a detrimental and degrading modeling career.
If I could go back I would be more loving, more attentive, and more present. But again... I remind myself that rumination on the past is breeding grounds for depression.
My son will graduate from high school tomorrow and although I can not be there to witness it firsthand (thank God for Facebook Live), I'm truly his biggest cheerleader. I'm proud of him. I love him and I accept him as he is.
He's a truly good man, kind to others, considerate, and unimaginably smart. He doesn't give himself enough credit for how awesome he is but that just goes to show his God-given humility and his gentle, humble spirit.
My mom and grandma, and others around me like to tell me that Mario and I did a good job. That we defied the odds and our teenage pregnancy turned out to be a perfect young man ready to contribute to society, but again... the truth is... it had nothing to do with Mario and me, and everything to do with the grace of God.
Leighton was a gift despite the circumstances surrounding his birth, despite pushing through poverty, and everything else. His life was always worth it.
I'm not sure what God has in store for my 1st born, but whatever it is I know it will be great.
The sadness that comes along with letting him go is trickling down to the next in line, my only girl... Gabriella. The experience of raising Leighton is a brutal reminder that kids grow up, and they grow up fast. I want to hold her hand... but she pushes it away. I want to kiss her cute little cheek and solve all her problems, but she prefers her friends. I want to talk to her and bake cookies, but she prefers the sanctity of her room. I recognize these signs, I've been here before. My daughter is very soon to be a woman.
There's that weird phenomenon again. It's tough being a mom, but it's also so rewarding.
I'm done ruminating on the past. I've shed my tears and I'm ready to move forward. I grew up with my son and as he enters the world on his own, I'm entering new territory too. I'm taking the lessons I learned through him and doing better for his younger siblings.
I'm curious about what my relationship with my eldest will be once he moves 8 states away. Whatever he decides 4 things will be true. I will love him. I will accept him as he is. I will never stop loving him. I will never stop being his biggest cheerleader.
Leighton if you ever stumble across this blog I hope you know that you are loved and your dad and I are SO very proud of you.