On my son’s 9th birthday he hoisted himself up on the kitchen counter with legs dangling. When did he get so tall and so strong, I thought to myself. It was the same counter that houses the drawer he used to crawl into when he was just a year old and looking for Cheerios.
“Mom?” he said, the way he starts every thought he has or question on his mind, “where do you think I’ll go to college?” Just then I felt a pang in my stomach, like he’d thrown a left hook right into my less than perfect gut. It was an emotional left hook. I looked at him and realized, we are halfway there. Halfway to the day (or weeks) I’ll cry my eyes out as my beautiful boy begins a natural stage of his life. A right of passage. When did that happen?
The funny thing is I never really knew if I wanted kids. I wasn’t the one in the group who had a real maternal instinct. I really had no biological clock or even real desire to settle down and get married. Even as my posse of playmates migrated toward marriage, I was fine living my life on my watch. I had a career, I traveled, I worked out – something I didn’t realize would be considered a luxury one day – and I had a full life … Or so I thought.
Even though I had a niece and nephew I was very close to, my mother tried convincing me to have a child of my own. She really didn’t care if I did it the conventional way, by getting a husband first. That never really mattered to her. She understood why I loved my life the way it was and having gotten married at 18, she envied how I lived. But when it came to children, “Just think about it” she would say, “I don’t want you to miss out on the most incredible love you’ll ever know.”
Then I met my husband. I was 39 when we were engaged and 40 when we got married. My husband had a son and so now I did as well. That was good enough for me. We were a family. But my mother’s words played over in my head. My husband was all for another child and so I thought why not give it a shot. Maybe what was holding me back was the fear of not being a good parent. I thought I would put it in the hands of the universe. If it was meant to be, it will happen for us. If it doesn’t, well, we’ll see the world.
A few months later, at my birthday dinner, my husband ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio. It was the wine we drank on our first date. It arrived to the table and the smell of it sickened me! The next day at work, I felt like the flu was coming on. My girlfriend insisted I go get a pregnancy test at the drug store downstairs. It was there in the ladies room at work, the blue line stared up at me. I was shocked by the news I was pregnant. Shocked.
Nine months later – or really 10 – somehow they keep that a secret from you – James MacKenzie Chris Mathisen came screaming into the world and racing into my heart. How have 9 years gone by so fast? All those long sleepless nights, thousands of dirty diaper changes, head in the plate meals, temper tantrums, potty training, baths in the sink, turned to baths in the tub turned to showers all alone … It all went by when I blinked.
Now my little boy was asking about colleges. And in a blink, he’ll be standing in a cap and gown. Trace Adkins sings a song called “You’re Gonna Miss This” and thankfully, I learned about it a few years ago. It changed the way I look at time – the good stuff and the tough stuff, because I am gonna miss all of it – because at the end of the day, it’s all good.
My mom was right.