shotgun

What is he doing here? I am surprised almost every time I notice he is next to me. My son now sits in the front seat of the car. In fact, that was the highlight of his twelfth birthday a few months ago. Forget the gifts or the fun. The best part for him was getting to sit shotgun.

There are some definite up sides to the whole thing. This means that now, in our minivan, the boys cannot touch each other when we are driving around town. Tremendously helpful. Peace is possible (sort of).

And since he is right there next to me, I can pass him my phone when I remember a text I need to send and simply dictate. When his little brother drops something, he can see behind my seat and pick it up for him. He can change the station on the radio (confession: not always a “pro”).

But now I have someone next to me pushing buttons, asking questions about driving (four more years, but now that he can see out the windshield he’s all about it), and just generally being in my space.

And as a mom of three, I don’t have much space. My “adult world”, no matter how limited my visits there may be, has been my place to take off the mom hat.

Now I have a twelve year old who is learning the ropes. He needs to come visit that adult world bit by bit with increasing frequency, just to try things out, look around, and get a feel for the place. Developmentally this is time.

Emotionally speaking for me? Not so sure.

I may, from time to time, feel as though my toes are being stepped on. I may feel a bit territorial. Especially when it comes to my van. The one I have been driving around for the last eleven years. Sharing the van, but having the front section all to my adult self.

But this is good. Always good for me to have something tangible to represent the intangible. I see things clearer that way. They make more sense to me.

So now I see – with my son sitting in the front seat of the van – that I am going to need to share things I haven’t had to pry my fingers from just yet in this adventurous process of motherhood. And like I said, it is time. He is ready. He will never learn to function in the adult world if I don’t let him in.

And so begins the process of learning to have a relationship with my growing-up son who will always be my child, but will not always a child. 

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HOLD ON!!!

In that moment, the adrenaline surges as my stomach goes haywire because I know it’s about to end up in my chest. The cars all obediently hooked together have taken their last few chink–chink—chinks on their way up the rails. We can just barely see over the crest of the ride and the impending descent is upon us.

I grew up in the Bay Area, which meant of course that I didn’t miss the magical wonders of The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There is a right of passage to it, riding the classic coaster that has appeared in movies like The Lost Boys, Dangerous Minds, and Sudden Impact.

The Giant Dipper is a traditional wooden roller coaster ride. No fancy loop-de-loops or corkscrews. Simply and beautifully, the ride showcases large ups and downs for the purists in the crowd.

And for that reason, the moment when the ride goes from sounding like it will never ….make it ….up ……..…the ……….…hill to a whipping, whirling, out-of-control rush that’s over before you know it has been etched into my brain. To me, this encapsulates the quintessential roller coaster experience.

I have found myself thinking about that moment on the ride in Santa Cruz quite a bit lately. My early years of parenting were wonderful and treacherous all at once. Elusive sleep and demanding little people always underfoot existing side by side with sweet kisses and nighttime stories and snuggles that made my heart burst.

Truthfully, I often felt like the roller coaster fighting to make it up that hill, trying to survive to the next stage.

And suddenly, the top of the hill is in view and I realize in moments this will all be over. The phrase “the days drag but the years fly” is giving way to a blur where everything is flying.

I can see our oldest turning into a young man more and more each day right before my eyes. And I know that his brother is right behind him. And that our baby will be only a blink after that.

There is much life to be experienced in the immediate years ahead. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

I may be a little exhausted at times. I may feel overwhelmed. I may not return phone calls or check my email with a speed or frequency I (or any adult person) would deem appropriate or responsible. I may not read or write as much as I prefer. I may not think we will make it in one piece every now and again.

But I am gripping the safety bar and holding on for dear life as I can see what is to come. I am screaming for fear and for fun and for all of the life in my life that I love with precious ferocity.

And I am determined not to blink. 

summer love

The lump sits in my throat as tears brim in my eyes. Nostalgia sweeps over me and I am left both joyful and grieving. What a summer this has been.

The garb has been plopped in the sand, the smiles slathered like sunscreen across our faces, and sibling skirmishes have been carried away by the cool breeze coming off the waves.

I can feel us all breath. Deep and cleansing, the air collectively fills our lungs. We are together in the best way.

I anticipated the summer to be a disaster. This has been a difficult year filled with a lot of transition. I figured summer would simply be more of the same. A lot more. All day long more.

But life often surprises us and sometimes those surprises turn out to be just the relief we need.

After a school year charting new territory of middle school and having that territory effect so much more than just the one in middle school, this relief came to a weary bunch. But it came.

We have actually enjoyed one another this summer. Even my children. Not all day long every day, but enough. Enough to say that we found one another again in this new landscape.

And the beach seems to symbolize all the goodness we have experienced in our togetherness this summer. So as I watch my boys playing at the shore engaged in some team building fun, gratitude fills my heart. For this time together. For each one of them. For all of them together.

I realize that in a few short days, the start of school will mark the end of this summer. We will never get it back. Time marches on. And I don’t want to stop it because I love the process of life. But I wish I could save just a few of those grains of sand from the hourglass and set them aside for safekeeping.