Hearts breaking

I look up to you as you stand, not quite a head taller than I am. You, with your hairy legs, deep voice and man feet.

I held you when you split your chin open because your tiny, chubby toddler legs couldn’t keep up with your quick mind.Fotolia_69874004_Subscription_Monthly_M

You are adamant that you go to this party. That you know the rules. That you are wise in your own mind and heart.

I can still see a bit of the scar. That hurt is nothing compared to what will happen if there is drinking at this party and you get in a car with a driver who has downed a few. Or try some new drug I probably don’t even know the name of because it seems there is a new one some teen has overdosed on every day.

You have chosen your clothes carefully, although no one but me will know this. They won’t be able to tell that your ripped t-shirt is actually the one you feel is coolest. It looks like you don’t care. But you care a lot. This I know.

You were never quick to answer anyone. You absorbed the words as if they were to be chewed upon, pausing and making people pause also, wondering if you had heard them. Will you do the same if you are asked to do something that could hurt you? Will they take your hesitation as acquiescence?

You chafe at my rules, as you should. You are of the age that this resistance is required, really. Test your limits. Push boundaries. But please, not on the big stuff. Argue with me about an extra 30 minutes on curfew but don’t do what that man child did a few years ago at the school across town. Killed himself unwittingly through an addiction he thought he would be immune to, as so many do.

You always learned by doing. “No show me, Mommy. Me do.” Your mantra whether I was holding a hammer or putting dinner into the oven. You cannot figure this one out by doing, kiddo. The doing will hurt you in a way I cannot fix.

“Will there be girls at the party?” I ask, not sure if I’m asking hopefully or with apprehension.

Image of woman tearing paper heart apart, shallow depth of field
“I watched your heart break a little through the window of your eyes.”

“Why wasn’t I asked to any birthday parties this year?” your seven-year-old self asked me. No tears, just a wondering in your eyes. And then, realization. I watched your heart break a little through the window of your eyes. Girls can be fickle, Sweets. They break hearts a whole lot worse than being among the uninvited to a birthday party.

And so we negotiate. The drop-off, the curfew, the code word you will use if this party is more than just an innocent night out for a group of teens.

And my heart breaks a little as you go. Because yours will break a little, or a lot, in ways I cannot predict or save you from as you traverse growing up. As you mature into that voice, those feet, I will have to watch.

I have never liked watching your heart break. But I’d be a sorry excuse for a mother if I didn’t let it happen in the natural course of things.

Your heart may break. But you will not. If I’ve done my job right. I say this to myself and yet admit I have no control over every single outcome. A realization any wise parent comes to at a certain point as children spread their wings.

The alternative is to keep your wings clipped.

I cannot.

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42 Comments Add yours

  1. How lucky is your son!

    PS: I read your comment up your son hasn’t read this. You should probably show it to him.

  2. Just a question if I might.
    Has your son read this? I think it would be a powerful insight to your love and release of him.

    1. candidkay says:

      No. At 15, I’m not sure he can fully absorb where I come from as a mother. I’m sure in time, but right now he’s all teen:).

  3. srbottch says:

    A few years back, okay, more than a few, we ‘clipped out son’s wings’ and disallowed him ting into an after prom party at a summer cottage on a beautiful lake. Yes there were girls but we couldn’t get specifics about adult chaperones (a.k.a. Parents). His best friend went but not out son. Next say, friend called to say how boring it was and that out son ‘made’ the best decision to stay home. We won that round, but it’s tough arguing with them and feeling the angst. Oh, he’s an attorney now. A great kid.

    1. candidkay says:

      An attorney! You’ve laid down the law with the best then:). Couldn’t help it, Steve–had to say it . . .

      1. srbottch says:

        Love a sense of humor, even with a cutting edge. 😉 are you an attorney, as well!

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    Nice piece of writing Kristine. It’s mainly through the heartache of mothers that our kids grow up safely and well-adjusted. Dads can set an example but Mums do the hard bit.

    1. candidkay says:

      Very nice of you to say, Roy. I must say, I see some dads who do some really heavy lifting. But yes, in many cases, it is still mom doing it. I can’t wait for the day it’s a bit more equal. I think that’s good for our kids.

  5. This was so touching! #nowords

  6. Catherine says:

    You put into words exactly how I’ve felt each time one of my children has become a teen, and I hope that what I’ve taught them will be enough to keep them safe. Thank you.

    1. candidkay says:

      The wish of mothers around the world, I think. At least we know we’re not alone. A lot of fervent vigils until curfew . . .

  7. Oh wow, I needed to read this. My kids are still close to home, but soon they will be moving around on their own. It’s hard to imagine their little bodies being out alone in the world. But I guess if I raise them well, with good heads on those little bodies…they will be ok.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh yes. That is what we tell ourselves at least. That if we raise them with good heads, they will be ok. But even good heads make errors in judgment here and there. Those are the ones I worry about. I hope they are few and far between for both of us!

  8. RuthsArc says:

    You write so eloquently. You are right, we can’t clip their wings. We teach our kids life skills and values. There will be a time when that shines through as they emerge as young adults. It is less visible during the teenage years, but believe that they have absorbed your words and your example. Keep talking to your teens and chose your battles. Best wishes to you and your boys 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! The worry remains but you’re right–something has to stick!

  9. tigerlilly says:

    I am almost at the same stage where you are now, perhaps two or three years away and yet with every word you wrote, I realized we shared the same fears and hopes. My son keeps telling me, “Don’t worry Mom.” He doesn’t realize that I signed on for a lifetime of worry when I became a parent. Beautiful post! Thank you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh yes. The signing up bit–no one is quite clear about that, are they? I remember the feeling of panic when I realized that I would always be vulnerable–it hit me when I held my oldest in my arms after he was born.

      1. tigerlilly says:

        Nope, they forget that bit in the “mommy contract”. I can’t explain to someone who doesn’t have children how the heart physically hurts, actually aches, when they cry.
        Just read your other article “witness”. Very powerful story but happy you realized you deserved more…kudos

  10. Veronica says:

    I swear, I just said to my husband, “I officially hate this.” my 16 year old boy just left to hang out with his friends. A 17 year old girl is driving this evening. Everything I’ve been told by other adults that know her is that she’s a very nice, responsible girl.
    My son has only recently started going out. He has an 11 p.m. curfew and he agrees with and respects that. Prior to this, my boy was home, on the computer all night and safe. I liked that much better. I never imagined I would be this anxious over this stage of his life. I think the same way you do……just ONE TIME…..it only takes ONE TIME to say YES to the wrong things and it could be all downhill from there. I say these things to him and he tells me not to worry. My boy is a good kid. Great grades, great attitude, great friends, does his chores, helps with his siblings. He has basically been a dream to raise. A week ago, I handed him 2 packages of condoms and said, ” put them in your room. I don’t know if you need them yet or not, just…..you have them. Use them if you need them.” it was awkward for both of us. He just said, “ok.” and took them to his room. I don’t know if/when he’ll need them but I know he is too shy to go and buy them. This way, he has them.

    I officially hate this…..I want my baby back. And to think, I have a 12 year old boy and an 8 year old girl still to go through this.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh boy. In the thick of it. We’re not driving yet but next year and that piece scares me more than anything. I remember that feeling of invincibility at that age and no matter how good a teen is, it makes them stupid. Wishing you red wine, fervent prayers and an inexplicable calm. Not necessarily in that order:).

  11. In many ways I am glad that I am on the other side of those hard teenage years. It is tough laying down the rules and yet giving them wings. I was strict on the drinking / driving / drugs / adult supervised parties / safety kind of issues but relaxed on the fashion, hair, and (horrors of horrors) junk food. I think it paid off as even though we were labelled by them at the time as ‘the strictest parents at the school’, they NOW in their late twenties / early thirties appreciate that the boundaries were laid down for them (and interestingly enough avoid junk food).

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you! Choosing one’s battles is key.

  12. Sandra says:

    As the mother of four teenagers, my oldest almost 20, it’s amazing how quickly I adjusted to the whole “going out” thing. At first I imposed a curfew, and then as he proved himself trustworthy, and started using backup stories like “I’m going to spend the night at my friend’s house” which was code for I’m going to come home late, I eventually gave up on the curfew. I pick my battles I guess, and so far so good…mind you, I still have three more to go so I’m still crossing all ten fingers and ten toes. Good luck as you navigate this time in your life. It’s pretty freeing and spectacular.

    1. candidkay says:

      “Freeing and spectacular.” You’re the first to say that! What a wonderful attitude:). I hope I can relax into it as you have.

  13. Beautiful heartfelt post Kay. You speak for all Moms.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s why we’ll be the ones to change the world. I’m sure of it. You can mess with a lot of things but not my kids–and I know most moms feel the same way:).

  14. Molly McCloskey says:

    This is why it is so hard to replace the photos on the wall of them at age 4 and 6, 8 and 10, 12 and 14 even though they are now 21 and 23. Beautifully said. Be brave – you and him.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, the photos. Don’t even get me started on the photos:). Heart wrenchers!

  15. Oh…my heart thumped reading this. I’m a few years away from the teen years, but I know how quickly they’ll arrive. Your son sounds so much like my oldest. Big hugs…wine…anxiety meds — I’ll need all three by the time mine are teens. Hard topic, but beautiful writing as always.

    1. candidkay says:

      So far, so good:). We’ll get them there . . . he has made good choices thus far!

  16. Beautifully written. Any mother can share in these feelings of wanting to protect your child at all cost, yet wanting them to spread their wings and fly. Life’s lessons are hurtful, but it sounds like you’ve equipped him with all the tools needed to navigate the storms. That’s all we can pray for. After reading your blog for months now, I feel as if I know you well enough to say you’ve done a wonderful job. But, I guess we always worry. My husband’s 95-year-old father still calls him and worries when he hears we are going to have a hurricane on the east coast. (We live on Long Island, NY, were flooded during Superstorm Sandy.) Once a parent, always a parent!

    1. candidkay says:

      My mother used to say that very same thing–that the parenting bit never goes away, no matter how old your children get. I so appreciate you reading for months–I truly do! And commenting, sharing, etc. Thank you for your support . . . isn’t it funny how we get to know each other virtually and yet sometimes those ties feel so tight?

  17. My son is almost nineteen now but I remember that first house party and the first real date and the first girlfriend. The first time he took the car out by himself. The late nights lying awake waiting for the front door to creak open. It’s easier now but I don’t think the feeling will ever go away. I hope not anyway.

  18. I LOVE this post!! Perfectly expresses my feelings as my daughter is on the verge of a first date, and my son is getting invited to parties where I don’t know everyone and what they are doing. So hopeful that they make the right choices but it’s likely they won’t every time – part of learning and growing up!

    1. candidkay says:

      That’s exactly it:). The parties where you don’t know the parents/family are a killer. And yet, so many nice people out there, right? My door creaks and I leave it that way. Helps me monitor entrances and exits:).

      1. Yes! I am a very trusting person and tend to think the best of people. My husband is the opposite – he thinks you have to be on high alert at all times! The truth is somewhere in between (although hopefully the majority are good as I believe!)

  19. Tenderly, beautiful expressed hopes and fears for your child.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks so much. I know so many moms who feel as I do–you think the heavy lifting is over when they get a bit older but it’s really just beginning. Worries of a completely different type!

  20. Elyse says:

    That’s a beautifully written piece of all of us moms. Thanks.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! We are all so different and yet so similar in love, I think.

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