“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”
— Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
By Trish Wilkinson
At the end of May, I watched my oldest walk onto a stage, shake a few peoples’ hands, and accept a piece of paper encased in pleather. Of course, my watching this was accompanied by tears, laughter, and few wadded up Kleenex. Graduation — when had this snuck up on me? Yes, I knew that 13 educational years had passed — that he had acheived this goal that was set the day he was conceived.
But I never knew it would hit me like this. I always thought of myself as — while a sensitive, caring individual — having a certain pragmatic way of looking at the world. None of the “normal” milestones in my children’s lives really affected me, such as first haircut or first lost tooth.
No, I focused more on things such as when I noticed hair growing on my boys’ legs (they really weren’t babies anymore!), and the first time abstract thinking really kicked in (yes, Brennen, if you touch a bare lit light bulb once, it will burn just as badly if touched a second time!)
Sending him to kindergarten wasn’t the traumatic event that it seemed to be for my fellow moms. However, on that first day of middle school, I felt I was sending him off to a firing squad. But as he has with so many things, Brennen has survived whole, and the better for his experiences. Now he has achieved the major milestone of matriculation.
And he is handling it wonderfully. But me? I haven’t necessarily been clutching him around the legs as he drags me out the door, but don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I still see that baby I birthed — the little boy that has grown up and become a fantastic young man. It makes me want to reverse time, and relive so many moments that are now memories.
I am proud and pleased of and for him, but I am also mourning. For the most part, Brennen has been understanding and loving … recognizing when I need a hug and kiss. But I also see him eyeing that door, and his future beyond it. And I really, really want him to go through it, but…
So now Mike and I are having to redefine what it means to be Brennen’s parents. There are things that are definitely the same, but so many more things that have changed. We have had many conversations in the past two months regarding what expectations we all have, and how these expectations impact our lives.
Mutual and self-respect has always been major themes in our family, and they will continue to be — however, autonomy will have a whole new meaning. Judgment and decision making will be tested, and our boundary of trust will definitely have to be expanded.
Brennen will be leaving … the movement has already begun. My little boy has grown up, and he is exactly where I want him to be. But the part of me that will always be a mommy will always be holding my little redhead in my arms.
Trish Wilkinson has been married for 24 years and is the mother of two boys ages 18 and 14 (first born by unplanned cesarean; the second was a VBAC). A child and family therapist for 15 years before becoming a doula in 2001, she started Tree of Life Doula Services and Birth Resources in 2005 and has attended more than 250 births, including cesareans. She is a certified doula through Doulas of North America, as well as licensed clinical social worker for the state of Illinois. She is a regular contributor to chambanamoms.com.