Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bye-Bye, Baby

On-the-job training and lifetime experience count for a great deal in most instances, I think. If you're filling out a resume and you put down that you have twenty plus years experience on the job, that would be considered a major asset to the company doing the hiring. After all, there's not too much that would stump you after twenty years on the job.

That's true in most cases, but it's not true when it comes to the job of parenting. I've held that position for over twenty-two years now, and I still find myself stumped and faced with new challenges on a terrifyingly regular basis. The perplexities of new motherhood, including figuring out which way to put on the diaper and wondering if you're damaging your child for life because you gave him a pacifier, morph into the problems of wondering if your child is developing fast enough, talking when they should be, learning to walk at the right age, etc.

From there you move on to all the joys of potty-training, schooling, friends, dating, homework, teenagers, etc. And just when you think you have it all down, your next child presents you with an entirely new set of issues that you did not have to deal with at all when raising your first child.

It seems, too, that no matter how many kids you add, experience doesn't count for a whole lot. They each present new challenges and experiences that you never encountered before. And just when you think you might finally make it through the wild jungle of child-rearing, you face that inexplicable new animal:  the adult child.

Joyce, my blogging friend From This Side of the Pond, wrote extremely eloquently about the joys and complexities of trying to parent a child who has turned into an adult. One of the problems is that, when our adult children are not yet parents, they have no idea how difficult this job is for us. Perhaps we've made it look so easy, that they don't realize the struggle we have trying to figure out the right way to handle each situation that comes up. I've tried to explain this to our oldest son, who is twenty-two, but I'm not nearly as eloquent as Joyce is. Nor am I as refined. So my explanations follow something along the lines of this--

When a failure or error happens on my part and I absolutely can't explain or hide it, then I tell Matt that, since he's the oldest, we make most of our mistakes with him. He's the guinea pig. If he doesn't like it, he should take it up with God. God is the One that brought Matt into our lives first, so apparently He thought Matt could handle it.

I've had the additional uniquely challenging role of parenting five boys. It's been interesting trying to mother and train them while at the same time letting them develop into their own man, so to speak. It's not always been easy for their dad either, even if he is the original Indiana Jones. Occasionally, as Matt has gotten older, he and Indiana have butted heads. When he struggled with their obstinate and contrary wills, I tried to explain things to Matt. But rather than being elegant in my speech, I put it in terms any male could understand.

"Dad's marking his territory. He's Top Dog, and you're peeing on his tree."

He sometimes chafed at the rules, but he got the analogy. One time he told me ruefully, "Dad doesn't have a tree. He has a whole forest." True. His turf. His rules.

One week ago today, Matt moved out of our house and into the apartment that he will be sharing with Kylee after they're married. (Six weeks!) My baby has taken one more step towards being completely on his own. It could have been a traumatic day, but it wasn't. Mostly because I've seen him almost every day since then. And because he still hasn't moved all of his belongings out of our house.

In the meantime, I thought I should get him a housewarming gift. Something that would not only grace their first home together, but would commemorate his transition into a full-fledged man on his own. So I got them a plant.

Matt now has his own tree. Welcome to adulthood, Son.

Now when are you moving the rest of your things out of the house?


  1. I laughed and laughed about "He has a whole forrest!" What a great male analogy. You said it right!!

  2. Ha! The other side to this though, is that it feels good to think you managed to get one successfully to adulthood and living on his own to boot! Congratualtions! Six weeks-yowza!

  3. Congratulations to Matt and to Mom!

    "Mark your territory Matt....have at it!!"

  4. Oh Jill - you and I should co-write a parenting book because our styles are eerily similar. LOVE your analogies.

  5. This was super sweet! 6 weeks!! Woo hoo!


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