Written January 2009 to a first-time expectant mother:
The bedroom at the top of the stairs, the one on the left, was spotless. With the door propped open by the weighty brass doorstop, it invited the passer-by to enter into the room—or at least give a quick glance. The duvet on the bed, designed and created by Mother, was perfectly arranged, nary a wrinkle to behold. The custom pillows were propped just so against the headboard. Books and mementos stood like well-behaved soldiers on recently dusted and organized bookshelves. A comfortable chair sat in front of the clean desk as if anticipating the arrival of an occupant, pens and pencils at the ready. The curtains on each window hung elegantly from the rods, the blinds beneath all opened to precisely the same degree. The dust bunnies that reproduced so easily underneath the bed had migrated to the dust pan and not even the corners held captive little bits of dirt and debris. It was an impeccably-kept room, perfect in every way. Perfect, that is, in every way but one. No one lived there anymore.
A few weeks prior, the room did not look so perfect. It had that. . . well, how do I put it . . . that “lived-in” look. Rather than a wide open door, the door most often remained closed, protecting the privacy of the resident. The desk was an electronic depot and the floor a depository for dirty clothes. The covers on the bed were seldom straightened. And at times, three-quarters of the glasses from the kitchen cabinet took up residency on the bedside table. Still, the room was in many ways perfect. The resident, my eldest son, made it that way.
Now he’s gone. His departure is not the kind that happens when a college kid goes off to study. In that case, they predictably return on Christmas and summer breaks. But this time, that is not the case. This child of mine, a young man of twenty-one years and anxious to begin life on his own, has left for good. When he returns, it will be only as a short-term visitor. What remains on his shelves and hanging on the walls are merely remnants of a distant childhood that have come and gone all too quickly.
What happened to those years? How did we get to this point? I have always known that children are raised so that they can leave. But when it happens, it catches you off guard. Though always a parent, you realize the years of parenting have come to a screeching halt. Your own flesh and blood has slammed his foot down on the brake, propelling you forward into the post-child rearing years. The whiplash from that process can be oh so painful.
As a new parent, embrace the dreary-eyed, sleep-deprived nights. Love the poo. Embrace the puke. Hold his tiny hand. Tickle his tootsies. Sing songs in the night. Look for monsters under the bed. Read him bed-time stories. Go for walks in the park. Dare to be silly. Zoom down the slide. Teach him to ride a bike. Help him with homework. No matter how busy, don’t forget his birthday and reduce him to tears. Take pictures to remember his artwork passionately scribbled onto the wall. Let him see you and Daddy kiss. Teach him to manage his pennies. Teach him to work. Teach him to play. Talk about God. Live like you talk. Cherish the good, the bad, the joy, the sadness for surely it will be gone sooner than you realize.
Hold onto each moment for “this too shall pass.”
Post-script: That son of mine? He moved back home anyway as he awaits his Navy training to begin in May. Maybe then his room will once again be tidy.