Sam in His Shades

He’s the kid who used to hide behind a chair and grunt, “Leave me alone!” while he worked on yet another Pull-Up. We were fairly certain we’d never get him completely potty trained. Discussing parallelograms and rhombi at age 2? You bet. Willingly choosing to use the toilet for its intended purpose? Not so much.

And now. His voice is deep and resonant, he’s a good head taller than me, he drives his Nana’s old car and excels in Calculus. He has fabulous, funny friends who make me laugh and fill our home with noise and testosterone. (As if we needed more…)

We, as a family, are currently in the throes of deciding our next move.

And he wants to stay.

Starkville has become his home, his sanctuary, his kingdom. He wants to finish what he’s begun, wants to graduate with his class, wants to nurture his lacrosse baby into a full-fledged, self-sustaining club.

By the time we move, he’ll be a junior in high school, will be nearly seventeen — so close to an adult. He’s a good, responsible, reliable kid. He doesn’t test his boundaries (much), doesn’t invite trouble. He’s sarcastic and mature and funny as hell. Yes, he’s still a bit of an ass in the morning, but we all have our Achilles heel, don’t we?

We have kind, generous friends who have offered to open their home to him so he can graduate with his posse. These friends are dear to us and would treat him as one of their own. They would set limits and establish curfews. They would feed him and laugh with him and love him. They would learn from him, and he would learn from them.

But he’s mine.

And yet, I know he’s not.

He’s Sam. He’s his own. And when I think about making him move with us — about forcing him to adapt to our decisions when he’s so close to the edge of adulthood — it seems there is nothing driving me but my selfish need to keep him with me, to keep our family intact, to cling to his cutie-patootieness for as long as I possibly can.

In two short years, he’ll be away at college. He could, quite possibly, go sooner if he wanted. Academically, he could kick it into high gear and graduate early.

The thought of him leaving in two years is already more than enough for me to digest. The thought of willingly letting him stay while we go quite nearly rips my heart in two. But that’s the way my heart feels — his heart feels differently. And as he knocks at the door of adulthood, I need to listen to what’s best for him. Yes, I’m his Mom, but that doesn’t mean being with us for the next two years is what will serve him in the long run. Others might have more important lessons to teach him. As much as I want to believe that we are his be-all, end-all, I realize that’s giving ourselves far too much credit. He’s a student of this great, big world. He’s itching for more, thirsting for discovery.

We need to listen, to consider, to contemplate.

I always said that my number one job was to raise my kids with wings, to encourage their growth and flight, to nurture their independence. Perhaps I’ve succeeded.

Such a bittersweet victory.

Not having Sam with us would change the entire dynamic of this family. Now I understand what my Mom said about the silence that ensued when I left for college. “It’s so eerily quiet here without you and your friends around,” she explained. “It’s so vastly different.”

Changing our family dynamic isn’t bad or good — it just is. We knew it would happen eventually. It just might happen sooner than we expected.

What would we be without our Alpha Male kid?

What might Gus become when he’s no longer in the shadow of his big brother?

Who could Mary Claire blossom into?

Would George take over?

All I know is that time moves far too quickly. I won’t continue to perpetuate the “they grow so fast” cliche, but friends… don’t blink.

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5 Responses

  1. When I was in high school, there were six of us girls who were close. Two of those friends, whose families moved away, lived with the families of another two friends. It was a very unusual situation, but one that made perfect sense to all of us at the time and to me is only odd in hindsight. I’m pleased to report that all six of us are still friends, but that those who lived together remain like sisters and continue to be treated as family by their host family nearly 25 years after we graduated from high school.

    Because I was a self-centered teenager at the time, I never really thought about what the experience must have been like for the families that allowed their children to stay behind. As a parent, I cannot imagine letting them go any earlier than strictly required.

    While I recognize how challenging this must be as a parent, as a friend of a child like your son, I have to admit that the situation can produce beautiful results.

    1. Thanks for your eloquent rendition of a very imperfect situation. We’re definitely looking for the most beautiful results for all four of our kids. It’s always reassuring to hear about possibilities and successes. And I love a good “friends forever” story. 🙂

  2. This is a tough one. As the parent of a college freshman, I would not trade anything for being together as a family those last two years of his high school experience. Think outside the box. There is surely a way you can stay in Starkville together until he graduates. People commute to jobs in very difficult circumstances that are far from ideal al the time.
    Just my two cents!

  3. Sounds like some big decisions ahead for all of you. I’m glad you’re open minded about Sam’s future, whatever and wherever it may be. I remember my mom saying the same things when I moved away, how different and quiet the house was. But having her support while I was off trying to save the world was a treasure to me. Whatever happens, you’ve clearly set up your boy to take on the world and he’s going to take it by storm. 🙂

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