One of my favorite artists of all-time is Dar Williams, a lesser-known folk singer who is as poignant as her voice is beautiful. I used a song of hers in my grandmother’s video at her passing. There is a line in the song that says, “When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows...” And honestly, a parent’s job is never done until the day they leave this earth. My grandma, even in her last breaths on earth, was giving me encouragement and advice and in that she gave me confidence and strength to do good no matter how difficult the task.
This year my baby turned 18. I haven’t seen her since Saturday and only then because I drove to her college town to have lunch with her. We left the restaurant holding hands and I was so glad she let me. Those were the same fingers I couldn’t let go of sitting on the couch as we watched PBS shows as she sat on my lap.
“Time it was I had a dream…and you’re that dream come true. If I have the world to give, I’d give it all to you.”
There were times when I didn’t feel cut out to be a parent. But what I was lacking in practical skills (like keeping my purse stocked with kleenex, getting laundry done before a pile mounted, and baking) I made up for in heart to heart talks, dancing in the kitchen to Barry White, and an unwillingness to give them the easy way out. And maybe all that mattered more.
Because now at age 18 and 19 respectively, my daughter calls me her best-friend and my son stops me often as we go about our day to give me a kiss and hug and tell me that he loves me.
I know that even though I don’t know their every step that in some ways my job is not over.
This week alone I got a dozen texts from my daughter as she applied for seasonal retail positions for this holiday season, asking me what she should write here and there. My son talks to me daily about his plans for the future bouncing ideas around to see what I think. They come to me for counsel and I will be there for them until the day I die.
I think about how parents and grandparents are flawed. They screw up. Mine certainly weren’t perfect. My maternal grandma would often lose her cool with us kids. She babysat us all the time. And she was the one who said, “In MY DAY…kids didn’t talk to their parents the way you talk to yours…” and “When I WAS a kid we were told how it was going to be and we just had to deal with it.” She is the one who cut our paper plates in half to save money and also the one who would sneak into our rooms to make our beds for us and tell us not to tell our mom that she did it. She brought us salt water taffy and copies of the National Enquirer and took us for rides on the bus because she never drove in her life.
My paternal grandma would host grandchildren sleepovers. We’d sit around her dining room table playing cards and laughing so hard we would race to the restroom before we peed our pants. She would teach us how to play the piano, and how to cook, and how to sew. She was dingier than Ethel from All in the Family and as fierce as Debra from Everybody Love Raymond. But she was an alcoholic in her early years and would also play favorites. Flawed, but we still loved her.
I’m flawed too. I’m not a perfect parent. My son is my thorn in my side. He and I don’t see eye to eye on matters of work-ethic and passive vs aggressively taking on the world. He is content to let things happen to him while I see it as a massive waste of time, talent, and energy. It’s hard for me to watch without putting my two cents in which he resents. We often go round and round. I don’t know how to fix it other than removing him from my view so I don’t witness his day-to-day life. He’s almost 20 and I know that I love him to death I just can’t watch him make what I see as mistakes right under my nose and not react. Especially when I’m paying for everything.
He knows I love him. He knows I stress him out beyond anyone else with putting pressure on him. It’s tense at times. I want him to live with his dad only so that I can just love him and not see the minutia of his life. But he doesn’t see that as a viable option. Too far from work, too expensive for gas. He’s in a tough spot because he works to pay for gas but has to drive to school which sucks up all of his gas and if he goes to school more that means more gas money and less work which means he won’t have the money to pay for the needed gas. It’s a damned if you do or damned if you don’t scenario.
I honestly don’t know what to do about it. I pay $11,000 for my daughter to live in dorms while she goes through a biology BA program. Working toward a goal. And my son’s life seems to be floundering while he is also doing his best it seems he’s always in the hole. I wish he would have gone to a 4 year college so he could have gotten through on time. He’s so behind. But that was his choice. He’s smart, talented, he has so much going for him.
The ultimate curse and blessing of being a parent is realizing that your children will do what they will. They are independent people and while you can point them in the right direction, they will go their own way.
I pray no matter how he gets there, he will get there eventually. To a place where he can pay for the things he wants, have a good paying job so he can support a family and be happy. That’s all I want for him.
And I pray that I can get through the years it takes him to get there without turning him away.