I am in my bedroom, the television is droning on through the cycle of commercials. Below, my daughter is washing dishes and booming top-40, pop music.
All is well in my world.
Across the hall, the Boy is wrapping up homework while video chatting with his friends. Ninth grade is coming to a close and this long, exhausting year is finally feeling….done. We have another nine weeks to go, another twenty five percent of the school year to complete before summer vacation is upon us.
But I am seeing another round of changes with my son. He needs to shave his mustache every day or every other day, at least. I noticed that he’s starting to grow a beard.
He’s taller than ever.
His voice is richer and deeper.
He walks with a new sense of confidence.
At the beginning of the year, the Boy didn’t want to join anything or be a part of any group. He just wanted to blend into the background and inhabit the building and complete his education.
Now, every Tuesday and Thursday, he is in the gym doing the open gym workouts with the volleyball players, dreaming about the fall when he can officially try out for the team. Just before practice, he either does improvisational work with the new drama club I am helping create or he lopes around a practice field with the ultimate frisbee club.
The shell he carried on his back is falling away and he’s stepping out into the world and looking down at the angles of his own shadow and smiling.
I think he likes what he’s seeing.
Today, when I picked him up after volleyball practice, he was standing outside, talking to one of my students. But what I was really focused on was the fact that my son was making yet another friend. He was connecting with another person with whom I have a loose, peripheral relationship. Whereas this young man might be my son’s future team mate.
I hope and pray that the Boy will make it on to the team. Since joining the play, I have watched him go to school with a new sense of purpose, a hopeful spirit. He had something to pull him through the day, a tether that anchored him against the silliness and the drama that, despite my best intentions and strongest prayers, couldn’t protect him from. And the volleyball team seems to be yet another motivator for my son.
He studies constantly, even if his grades don’t always show it.
He is starting to look back at himself and his actions and his words and sees where he had to grow and become someone different.
and this is without my prodding
At the end of the week, I am planning on enrolling at the local university as a non-degree seeking student. At the end of the week, I might be enrolling in my first creative writing class.
At the same time, I am watching my son’s shadow lengthen and elongate a little more and know that next fall, I will do everything I can to be at all of his games, no matter where they are.
For the last nine years, I have missed many opportunities to be a better mother to my son. I allowed work, be it my primary career or my side-jobs, pull me away from my son.
I can’t do it tonight, sweetheart. I have to work.
I have to grade.
Just let me finish this one book so I can be ready for tomorrow.
I will never stop grading or working at home. Despite my best efforts to keep work at work and home at home, they bleed, like really thin water colors.
And those colors spill all over one another and blend so much that the boundary lines are buried or erased.
But I know that I must make my son a priority. I must make my daughter a priority.
Next week, the Girl has an important presentation.
In four months, the Boy will have his learner’s permit.
And it’s time that I stop what I know I can stop and walk to the side of my life and start walking next to my children.
Three more years and the Boy will be graduating.
In a year from now, he is going to start taking classes at the local community college.
I’m going to be a better spectator for my son’s life, a participant in his successes, a comfort in his failures.
But I will be present. Nothing will hold me back.