Surviving Adolescence: A Woman, Her Sons, Their Dad, and A Yellow Lab
I swear if I can still form sentences when I come out on the other side of this – in, say, ten years or so when all frontal lobes have reached maturity – I’m going to write a book. For now, I’m clear none of us in this household have yet survived it, and the roller coaster of it all leaves me only glimpses of coherency and insight. Basically, all I know is what I don’t know.
When I got married, my mother in law told me that should we have children not to expect daughters. The men of that family seem to carry an abundance of Y sperm. Her father-in-law was one of four boys, her husband one of two. She had two sons. And, as she predicted, of her six grandchildren, only one is a girl. My contribution to the family line is two more strong and brilliant MacMillan men.
So being a boy mom isn’t unique to me. Generations of fearless women have braved and enjoyed this world and lived to tell about it long before I took my turn. In fact, my two closest college friends are also the moms of only boys. There are nine sons (five husbands and four dogs!) among the three of us. It was cute when we could pass around monogrammed John Johns in the days we all shared the same last initial. Now we pass wisdom, horror stories, and cocktail recipes, and that is much more helpful than clothes could ever be. It’s a sisterhood I could never live without.
These two sisters have a strong Catholic faith. Over glasses of wine and through crazed text messages, they remind their Presbyterian preacher friend that a woman named Monica was elevated to sainthood just because her son was such a challenge. And who was Saint Monica’s son? Saint Augustine. Yep, we Presbyterians trace our theological roots to Augustine, so what happened to the story of his mom? (I suspect I know, but we’ll save that for a different blog post, ok?)
My oldest son reaches adulthood this week. Or at least he will be able to register to vote, sign up for the draft, and be held accountable for his actions in a new way. I’m clear his adolescence has not ended. To illustrate my point, his dad is taking him skydiving to mark the occasion. I bought him a book about making his bed. A few days after my boy turns 18, my puppy will have his first birthday. Some say that puppyhood ends after the first year. That’s a lie too. He’s just bigger and stronger and a little more mouthy. The vet recommends leaving him “intact” for as much of the next year as I can tolerate. With all of these “intact” young males under my roof, there are not enough bubble baths and pedicures in the world. Just send wine.
I’m aware that the subtitle of the book that’s forming all around and within me might as well be “Not According to Plan.” That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pick these boys, their dad, or this meat-head of a dog if I could do it all over again. I think it would suggest that surviving and thriving through adolescence requires holding that plan loosely and being prepared to let it go when the inevitable bumps jar it out of the death grip with which you thought you held it. They’ll take you on a wild ride and show you some stuff you probably would never see if it were up to you. And some of it, you just can’t un-see even if you want to. But, if like me, you thought you were an adult before you birthed them, you’ll still have the benefit of them growing and stretching you for years. Best I can tell, the “time of our increase” isn’t over yet. But if we’re going to grow ourselves, it has to be a time of letting go of the script we have so carefully written and allowing these boys the chance to chart their path, to discover who they are and what they love… to throw themselves out of airplanes, and to figure out how to heal their own wounds. Hopefully, it means they come to value making their beds and reaching the goals they design for themselves.
When it’s all said and done, I’m sure there’s going to be one great Cosmic Cocktail Party in our honor. We’ll sit around and laugh and cry over the journey and complement one another’s cute toenails. We’ll tell the stories of what Actually Happened but wasn’t recorded on Facebook or couldn’t be seen behind those giant photo buttons we wore to their sporting events. We’ll grieve with our sisters who lost their boys too soon and the ones who wanted them but never had them.
We will be in awe of one another.
For now, girls, let’s just hold one another in the Light.
Let’s be gracious and kind to ourselves, our sisters, and our sons.
Let’s honor the journey and keep doing the best we can.
And hold it all loosely and in love.