I Blinked and My Baby Turned 18

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Celebrating my son’s 18th birthday. Photo credit, G.B.

My son turned eighteen earlier this month.  I am now the mother of an adult child.  I’m not sure how to feel about this.  

I remember my son’s first year vividly.  Moms with grown children would say things like “Cherish this time because it goes by so fast.”  The truth is I didn’t cherish that time and it didn’t go by fast.  My son had numerous food allergies accompanied by frequent projectile vomiting and bloody diarrhea.  He barely slept and we were both exhausted. On a good day, he slept four out of every twenty-four hours. He only dozed off when I held him upright while walking and singing softly. This was our midnight to 4 am nightly routine for eleven months.  Eleven months. The pediatrician, allergist, and I believed my son’s symptoms were caused by food allergies, but allergy testing for children under three wasn’t always accurate back then.  When my son was ten months old, an endoscopy and colonoscopy confirmed the root of his problem was food allergies and he was prescribed a medical-grade amino acid-based formula.  After consuming this prescription formula for a month, my son began to sleep solidly for eight to ten hour stretches each night. It felt like a miracle. I worked endlessly, advocated fiercely, and loved my baby more than I thought was humanly possible in the first eleven months of his life, but did I cherish that time?  Not really.  I was too worried and too exhausted.        

My son had a challenging infancy, but he has been the easiest kid to raise.  He is sweet, loving, compassionate, hard-working, artistic, creative, flexible, cheerful, well-mannered, and intelligent.  I may be biased, but all of this is true.  I don’t just love my son with every fiber of my being, I really like him.  I may not have cherished his infancy, but I have cherished each and every moment since and hanging out with my son now is just so cool.  We share many passions, including music, theater, film, history, and politics.  I love going to concerts, plays, and movies with him.  I will always hold the conversations we have in the car driving home from each dear.  Last weekend we saw a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band.  Watching my son sing along to “The 59th Street Bridge-Feeling Groovy” song at the show warmed my heart.  I couldn’t help but think how sweet it is that in 2019 an eighteen-year-old is into 60s folk rock music.  The past few years have given us many opportunities to delve into complex political conversations.  My son enjoys philosophizing and I relish being his sounding board.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that all the while my son was growing into an adult, but somehow it crept up on me–all at once.  In reality, my son’s journey into adulthood will be more of a gradual release than an abrupt metamorphosis.  In the fall he will leave for college.  When that thought overwhelms me, I remind myself that he’ll be home for breaks and summers.  In a few years, he’ll graduate from college and embark on a career of his own.  I don’t know where he’ll choose to plant roots for himself after college and that thought is unsettling.  I’m not sure I am ready for this.  I think back to the times I paced the floor and sang to my sleepless baby.  Were those the easier times, after all? Whether or not I am ready to let my baby go, in a few months he will be ready for me to let him go.  That’s all that really matters.  How is it possible to feel so proud, so happy, so apprehensive, and so melancholy all at the same time?  I try not to think about how much I will miss my son.  He may be taller than me, he may have grown a beard, he may be graduating from high school imminently and entering college, but my son will always be my baby.  My full-grown, adult baby.

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