Often, it seems, at least in dysfunctional families, that folks approach parenting with the goal of being the antithesis of their own parents. The less similar to the preceding generation we are, the better things are for all involved.
My parenting goals were few, beyond raising good humans. Of course, I hoped my children would have lives filled with adventure and exploration and that they might share their impressions and knowledge with me, in effect taking me with them. I aspired to raise children who would be independent and capable, yet not hesitant to ask for help when needed. And I wanted them to be happy and healthy.
As a parent, last weekend was as close to a trifecta of pure joy as I’ve ever known. If you happened to see me and noticed the big smile on my face, credit must be given to my son. That grin came directly from the fabulous Lilly boys.
It began with my oldest son’s decision to travel to Portland, OR for the weekend to watch “his” team compete in the MLS championships. As soon as the NYC Football Club qualified for the match, my son began looking for a ticket to the game. As a season ticket holder, he was able to score one and we began working on plane and train tickets and hotel reservations.
My Christmas shopping immediately became closer to completed – I could cover some of the expenses involved with his trip. I booked a hotel that looked lovely and was within a half mile of the stadium – apparently the perfect hotel, in fact.
I learned, via an excited text from my son, that the Hilton I had reserved for him also happened to be the hotel where the team was staying. The enthusiasm for the match and the trip, which I had thought was already at a steady 11, skyrocketed when he texted to tell me that he was in the lobby surrounded by the team, including his favorite player who was standing a mere three feet away from him.
How do you top that? Well, a tied major league soccer game settled by penalty kicks with your team winning the championship is one way, I suppose. What a fabulous experience for my son!
My middle son has grown into an independent young man who monitors his credit score with an attention he never directed towards his academic grades. Each time the number ticks up, he texts me to share his financial achievement with a pride that delights me. His responsibility and understanding of the importance of being on top of his finances is evidence of his maturity and makes me really proud. It seems he was listening to some of the advice I offered with regards to money management and the advantages to having an elevated credit rating.
I think he’s going to be ok.
Hearing my youngest son’s laughter erupt repeatedly, from a floor away, in our home filled my heart over the weekend. It’s been a tough couple of years for him and there have been times when my concern for him has bordered upon anxiety. It most certainly is not easy being a teenager during Covid and the challenges of finding some semblance of normalcy when one is physically isolated, yet immersed in social media has been incredibly difficult.
I would not want to be a teenager in 2021.
There is no better sound, though, than the peal of my son’s laughter and I’ve really missed that noise. I hope its emergence is an indication of an improved sense of peace and acceptance and look forward to hearing it ring frequently.
When I imagined being parent, I mused about sleigh riding, cookie baking and cuddling close while reading books together. I pictured Hallmark moments like the television scenes I had interjected myself into and hungrily consumed as a child. I would do all the things with my eventual children I had dreamed about doing with my own not present parents.
That’s not quite how things worked out, though.
Sleigh riding was a pain in the ass with all the layers of clothing and fully dressed children immediately needing to use the bathroom or complaining about cold fingers and toes. Family baking projects were a nightmare, complete with flour clouds covering every imaginable horizontal surface and whiny disagreements about cookie cutters and sprinkles. Reading together was the most satisfying of shared activities, but that, too, had its limitations. Kids like to move and it takes a pretty spectacular book to compel them to be still, unless it it’s bedtime and the activities of a full day have finally caught up with them, pinning them to their pillows.
Like many things in life, the expectation and the reality were more than a little divergent. The moments I had pictured as providing pleasure and fulfillment, often left me feeling disappointed and less than satisfied. Instead of times of togetherness delivering joy, I find myself appreciating, and even celebrating, the steps I witness my children taking without me next to them. My sincere hope is that they will continue to give me the privilege of coming along with them.
I can’t wait to see where they go and what they do next.