Son #1 turns 18 today, and I am not sure how I feel about it.
I'm a little sad, because his father is not here to share in the day, even though there will be Skype-ing and calling and packages in the mail, and a grand, belated celebration in June.
I am so proud of the young man he has become that I cannot find the words to express it (and that’s saying something for me).
This is the last birthday when he really, truly, still belongs only here, only to us. He will still belong to us, but not the way he does now. After this year, he will belong other places, too, until he belongs somewhere that is completely his own.
When he was born, after an exhausting labor that seemed like it would never end (as all labors are, I suppose) my doctor held him up and pronounced, ‘This is a very special baby.’ He had been born with the cord wrapped thrice around his neck, and with a ‘true knot’ in it. We didn’t know, then, that ‘true’ knots in cords are extremely rare. We didn’t know that often babies with cord knots don’t even live long enough to be born, or, if they do, they don’t survive the process. We were young, and tired, and thrilled with our beautiful baby.
We did not understand then what grace we had been given, but we do now.
On this 18th birthday, I am luckier than many mothers because I get to keep him around a bit longer. He will come with us to Seoul, put off University for six months or a year, travel, explore, see Asia, learn how others do things, and experience an entirely new world. I get to keep him just a little longer, and for that I’m deeply grateful. I’m grateful that he wants to come with us, that he enjoys our company, and that some extra time with the family in Asia is something to be looked forward to, not just endured.
However pleased we are that he's coming with us, we also know that, when he leaves, he will be ready to go. Really ready. Not just in the 'he's graduated high school’ sense, but ready to take charge of his life and do a good job of it. He has his father’s dry sense of humor, an ear for music, an eye for a beautifully composed photograph. But he is also kind, resourceful, practical, creative, and (of this I am most proud) deeply compassionate. He knows how to work hard, he knows how to balance his time, and he knows how to set priorities.
We have given him what some might consider to be a ‘long leash’ – lots of freedom, lots of opportunities, lots of experiences, lots of chances to make the wrong choice. There were times I held my breath, times I worried that we hadn’t made the right decision, that he wasn’t ready for this or that step. But each time, he took that next step, and learned, and grew, and gained confidence in himself; confidence that he could do things on his own and do them well.
This year, at 18, his childhood comes to a close. This year, his school days are over and he begins to pursue his life's work, his goals, his ambitions. This year, he will do exactly what we have been preparing him for his whole life: he’ll go out into the world and write his own story. He will be ready to start the next chapter, and I can’t wait to read it.