My son will be sixteen in two months.
Under New Zealand law, he will be able to leave school, drive a car (albeit on a learner’s licence), have sex, leave home, live with a partner, enter full-time work and get a tattoo. I’m kind of hoping he won’t do any of these things immediately (except driving maybe; I’m starting to be ok with that).
His life as an adult is beginning, and with it so many possibilities. With only a year until he finishes school (assuming he passes exams, etc) – he is beginning to confront the enormity of “what next?”
And he’s not the only one! For the Big T and me, “what next” is occupying our thoughts too. This is not to say that we’re planning to abandon the boy-child, but our relationship to him is undergoing fundamental change and we are starting to recognise that the lives we live now – shaped so much by the needs of a child – are neither functional or necessary into the future.
Looking back, parenthood is a succession of beginnings. And perhaps all that really changes is the pace of change itself.
You start off measuring the baby’s age in days, then weeks, months, half-years … until recently I’ve found myself talking about “the teenager.” Total dependence becomes “can sit up” then “crawls around”, “runs off the minute you turn your back”, “learns to ride a bike”, “catches the bus to another city to stay with friends” to finally “can I borrow your car Mum?” and “if I can get a cheap flight I’ll come back for Christmas.”
Adapting to each new phase is a challenge that all parents face differently. I’ve been surprised at how laid-back I am about the boy-child being away from home – in contrast to his otherwise totally chilled dad’s anxiety. When he turned fourteen and could be left “home alone” I found myself scanning the movie listings, planning date-nights, while the Big T would look bemused and say “that doesn’t sound like a family movie.”
Yet when my boy was little I was infinitely more neurotic – about everything – from whether I was breast-feeding properly to worrying if the spot on his back could be measles, or just a mosquito bite?
I don’t know what the new phase of our lives will be like, any more than I could have comprehended how parenthood itself would be. What I do know is that raising my son has changed me irrevocably – and I think for the better. I hope I can do justice to the possibilities the next phase in my life will bring.
Here are a few other posts I’ve enjoyed on one – or both – of these themes: