Happy 23rd birthday to my firstborn…
My desktop computer clock set to Korean time reads 4:20 in the morning in Seoul, where my firstborn currently resides -- meaning it’s officially his 23rd birthday. But here on the prairie it’s 1:20 on this Friday afternoon. Martina McBride croons “The Christmas Song” on an old-school CD player downstairs in my office as I struggle to put into words a whole bag of mixed emotions.
Chestnuts roasting segues into “What Child Is This”…what child indeed?
Nearly nine years after my husband and I were married, we welcomed our first child into the world on a snowy December evening in northern Arizona two-plus decades ago. Every family has its own stories, retold countless times until a fine patina coats the precious lore. With Erik, it’s the tale of his winter birth where there was even snow on the cactuses in Phoenix that year.
Fast forward to last December.
Erik graduated from college with a degree in German and a minor in English. In less than a month, he got a year-long job advising international students at the university where he’d studied abroad in Seoul. Previously he’d been to Germany twice, once in high school and once in college.
Today was his last day on the job in Seoul. He’ll be home in mid-January for just a while before heading to Europe for new opportunities.
When he called his dad on Skype this morning, we wondered if he was contacting us to say he was taking off for Thailand to meet up with his dad’s former grad assistant – and fellow child of the world -- who is traveling there – but no. He just wanted to let us know he’d finished his last day on the job.
He looked tired…and happy.
Earlier in the week, Erik’s younger brother finished his freshman year of college. He’s “officially” a sophomore now, due to all the college credits he accrued while in high school. This child is busy making plans of his own for his future.
Back track to the day after Thanksgiving and this younger son, Andrew, was putting up the Christmas tree for me and stringing the lights. Me, the mom queen of ‘holding on and letting go,’ was nearly brought to my knees realizing in a few short years this child would be out on his own too, and I’d have to depend on my color-blind husband to figure out the complicated color-coded branches system of our not-real tree….
I preach constantly, quietly and publicly, if we parents do our job right…our children leave us. That’s the whole point.
Earlier this week a dozen or so women, including me, met to eat dinner and laugh and talk and unwind – many of whom who teach at the university here. One, new to our fold – a new mom of a son – looked exhausted from being up since three a.m. the night before but happy to be out on a night out….
Many of us are in the same book club, and we joked about that elusive parents’ ‘manual’ none of us seemed to have gotten at the births of our first or subsequent children.
Our sons and daughters don’t come with instruction manuals.
They just come with a guarantee that if we do our jobs as parents well and right and heartfelt, they will leave us.
And we will rejoice.