It hit me today, as the Facebook memories photo popped up on my feed. First day of school pics from two years ago. Yesterday, it was the first day from last year. Thursday, I posted this year’s pictures. Today, it will be from our first year in Tucson. Later this month, Virginia and Texas will pop up.
I only have one more first day with my oldest. This year, he is a junior. Next year, he’ll be a senior. He’ll get his license before the month is out, and we are prepping our old Toyota for him. I have complicated feelings.
It’s not exactly sadness, though a strong ribbon of that runs through whatever it is I’m feeling. There’s a surprising element of joy to it, too. Joy in the young man he is, the adult he’s becoming. Joy as he flexes his wings and takes his tentative steps on his own out of the nest. I feel relief, too, both from some of the mundane obligations of parenthood, as his transportation will fall more and more under the “not my problem” category, as well as knowing he is gaining confidence and maturity. That I, as a parent, have done “a good job”.
It’s that sadness that I want to poke and prod. My mother once told me something to the effect that “Parenting is the only relationship where the end goal is to create distance, not grow closer.” I’ve tried to keep that in the forefront of my thoughts throughout the adventure of parenthood, but it has become more relevant since my boys hit adolescence. But today the idea has hit me like a two-by-four to the head. Before too long, that last first day will be in the past.
He will have other first days, but I won’t be photographing them. First day of college, first day of a new job, first day in his own apartment. All too soon, his room at home will be empty, and a part of my heart will forever be somewhere else. I won’t be able to knock on his door just to make sure he’s there.
The bundle of wriggling newborn that scared the cats when we brought him home from the hospital is long gone. Bit by bit, school year by school year, he has been replaced. Now a young man with keys in hand stands ready to fly, out our door and into his own life.
I only have one more first day he is obligated to share with me. The rest belong to him. If we’ve done our job well, he will invite us to share in them. So, I’m allowed to feel a little sad, and I’m allowed to feel joy, and relief. And I hold tight to the fact that I get one more. Next year, I’ll be a mess.