I’m sitting in front of my computer this morning after drinking a really great cup of coffee and listening to the ever funny song “Cows with guns” by Dana Lyons. You see my coffee was the “AK47” from Black Rifle Coffee Company… so you see, there is a method to my madness… AK47… cows with guns… stay with me, I promise it gets better. Black Rifle Coffee is veteran owned and they hire a ton of veterans to do what the company does better than most… make amazing roast to order coffee… so that’s wow worthy and I love it!
Enough about coffee and farm animals with heavy artillery… let’s start learning to let go while we hold on tight.
This topic came to me early this morning as I lay in bed wrestling with my oldest son’s latest plan. His plan… head to Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) after he gets his college degree in three very short years.
You see, he turns nineteen in a little over a week and I may be having some struggles with having an adult that I gave birth to living and continuing to get older and older under my roof. As he gets older he becomes more “adulty”… you know… adulty… like an adult. How can he be an adult when I’m an adult… is it possible we can both be adults at the same time? I did not sign up for this when I kissed each of his little baby toes and fingers, stared into his big brown baby eyes with incredibly long baby eyelashes, listened for his “I’m hungry” baby cries, and sniffed the top of his baby head (don’t think I’m weird… the scent of the top of a baby’s head is like cocaine for mamas).
I thought it would be relatively easy to let my kids go when they reached adulthood. Not only would it be easy but as they kicked their little three year old feet in defiance over having to wear shoes, screamed as I made them take yet ANOTHER bath before a totally unfair early bedtime, and refused to eat anything other than beanie weenies for an entire year I envisioned myself packing their suitcases and throwing them on the first bus to boot camp on their 18th birthdays.
My oldest son’s 18th birthday came and went and he actually had been planning to enlist in the air force after high school but then decided to go to college instead. Secretly I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief… I wasn’t ready to let him go yet. In reality though, it was not my job anymore to “let” him go or even “make” him stay. My job had changed.
My job now was to hold him tight… in my arms, actions, and words when he was near me and in my heart and thoughts when he was away. My new job involved a new level of encouraging separation and independence. Encouraging separation has been easy for me to fake. I made him get a job outside the home at sixteen to encourage independence and responsibility. Inside I missed every fiber of his being when he headed off for each shift at work. On the outside I praised his success at work and didn’t make any kind of big deal about his absence from our home. The new normal, right? I hated the new normal for so long… I missed my son even though he was only gone each day for a short time.
I encouraged separation by teaching the realities of life with taxes, rent/mortgage payments, electric bills, phone bills, grocery shopping, laundry, relationships, and all the other million things that go into living away from the home of mom and dad. I taught him these things and then I refuse to let him do most of them. I did demand that he do his taxes the other day rather than letting him continue to put it off… so there, that’s something “adulty” he did.
Right now we live a life of encouraging separation by continuing to have our adult son do the things of adulthood… some on a regular basis (working, taking college classes, paying for the gas in his car, doing his own taxes etc.) and others on an “ok, you know how to do this if you would have to and we will ask you to do it on occasion but for the most part mom and dad will take care of it” (cooking meals, doing laundry, paying insurance etc.).
I hold my son tight by watching him like a hawk and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not following him around all the time but I make it a point to get to know the folks he works with as well as his friends and their families. I actively initiate conversations about his college work, what he’s reading and watching, future plans, hobbies, his job, relationships, diet, and his spiritual path. I ask for his advice and help around the farm and home as a fellow adult rather than a kid. I don’t let him get away with a bunch of “I don’t know”, “I guess”, or “Nothing”… there is always something meaningful going on in SOME aspect of one’s life and gosh darnnit I want to know about it when it comes to my family… and my friends… and acquaintances… and complete strangers if I’m being totally honest with you all.
Truth be told, this road of encouraging separation while holding tight is a tough one for many, including me. It looks different for each family and it often changes day by day. This opening of my heart all came about because I didn’t get my way recently regarding something with my oldest son. I caught wind of an internship with Vectren (local power company) that was right in line with my son’s degree program (Information Systems Security). I excitedly told him about it and pressured him like a used car salesman to jump at this opportunity and at least put in for it. He shut me down quickly and completely by simply saying, “No thanks, I have a plan and I’m not interested in that internship.” Not knowing when I’ve been defeated I pressed on that no plan of his could possibly be as good as my plan (not my best moment of parenting). Being the adult he is he didn’t fight back and simply told me, “No thanks” AGAIN (the nerve of that kid adult!) and went on to tell me that he planned on staying at Tractor Supply Company for now, focusing on school, get his degree and then apply for Air Force Officer Training School.
Honestly, my heart dropped at first because in his plan he didn’t stick around the home area to work after college. Continuing with the honesty thing, I selfishly prefer the holding tight when he’s around and I can see him, give him hugs, and have conversations with him anytime I want… the holding tight from afar, in my thoughts, heart, telephone conversations, and texts takes more work and I know I have the tendency to be lazy in this regard. But, the upside… the
kid adult has a plan! My adult that my husband and I raised up HAS A PLAN! So, now my heart is not all droopy but rather right in the middle where I guess it’s supposed to be.
Sooooooo… what do I need to work on? Ugh… everything. But for right now my son is home and will be, God willing, for a few more years so we’ll just put some of this holding tight from afar on the back burner until I’m forced to acknowledge it as a reality. Maybe not the best plan but I think the coffee and the high from the call for bovine freedom, (seriously, listen to the “Cows With Guns” song (does have one swear word in it, sorry)) has worn off and I need another dose of optimism and caffeine.