Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest. ~Karen Savage and Patricia Adams, The Good Stepmother
My son, once again, feels alien to me. The last time I felt that way was when I brought him home from the hospital as a newborn.
As a newborn, if my son was hungry, wet, or tired, he cried; he cried when constipated or gassy. The sleep schedule, endless diapers, and growth spurts seemed never-ending, but in between all that, there were a million moments of watching and marveling over him.
Those first weeks were uncomfortable and felt foreign as I learned to distinguish the difference between an “I’m hungry, feed me now!” cry and an “I’m tired and ready to sleep,” cry. We had begun building the foundation of communication in those early months, that carried us through the toddler years, the school, years, and into the ‘tween and teen years.
In the weeks and days leading up to his 18th birthday, the alien had returned; my sweet, chubby-faced son and his larger-than-life smile, gone, replaced with a serious, stubble-faced, lanky young man.
Communication also changed. There was no more summary of the events of the day; instead, it was “Hey, Mom,” or “bruh,” as he went upstairs to his bedroom. I heard the deep belly laughs as well as light-hearted debates about politics while talking with friends on Discord. I guess the one consolation was his bedroom door: it had always been, and remains to this day, open.
This change feels like a bit like a road rash: a little itchy and a tad bit annoying, but I can’t help the urge to peel back the bandage to take a peek.
I see packing boxes for college stacked up neatly in the guestroom.
I see an “Adulting 101 To-Do List” for my son. Power of Attorney. Check. Health Insurance card? Check. FERPA form, Prescription drug card, and new checking account set up. Check, check, check.
I see my two sons, heads together chatting and collaborating, arguing and annoying each other a thing of the past.
“Mom?” my son called out, interrupting my thoughts, “Will you please make me some cinnamon toast?”
I pull out the toaster, the cinnamon, and the sugar, pop two slices of bread into the toaster. As I reach into the refrigerator to pull out the butter, I know that in two weeks, when my firstborn leaves for college, the house will never be the same as it is right at this very second. I wipe back a tear and savor the moment.