On the Eve of Eighteen

My baby is sick. My first baby, that is. He’s not just sniffly sick, he’s totally wiped out sick. He’s the kind of sick that has a very pregnant mother haul herself out of bed two or three times a night and go down two flights of stairs just to hover over his bedside.

And then, because I'm so very pregnant and feeling way too maternal, I fight the urge to cry. Who will hover next year? Who will be there for this midnight vigil when he is living on a college campus? The convergence of new baby and “newly-minted adult” is brought home to me at three in the morning with an overwhelming force.

Tomorrow is Michael's eighteenth birthday. As this baby stays tucked up tight, my husband jokes that we will never have eight children. Tomorrow, we will have seven children and a brand-new adult. Someone decided that my first-born baby is now old enough to vote, to go to war, and (joy of joys) to get a Costco card. What a momentous occasion it will be. We made it — the three of us: Michael, Mike and me. We navigated an entire childhood. And he's really a wonderful young man.

I remember so well the day he was born. I remember becoming a mother. And I remember every single lesson he has taught me since that day. The irony is that we are probably hours from beginning the adventure again with a new baby. And much of the reason we are so eager to do so is Michael. That first childhood entrusted to us was such a joy, let's do it again. And again. And again. Well, you get the idea.

I think that I loved being a mom and he loved being a kid because we lived a lifestyle of connected parenting (sometimes known as attachment parenting). We kept him with us. We answered his cries promptly and then, when they evolved, we listened to his every word. We respected the person in the child. We loved wholeheartedly. And we were so richly rewarded.

He talks often about how we fostered independence. But I think what we fostered was interdependence. We grew up together in many ways. I was barely older than he is now when he was born. And as Mike and I caught a vision of life, we naturally shared it with our child. We knew he was capable of great conversation even when he was very young. And so we talked. We talked and we talked and we talked. They say that you can't or shouldn't be a friend to your kids. That's probably true. Children need to see a clear authority. But the goal is to raise children whom you would love to have as your friends. So you can and should be a friend to your young adults, right? Because this kid — I mean, young adult — is one of my best friends.

It's all good right? I can go out and tell the world how well attachment parenting — especially Catholic attachment parenting — works. I can shout from the mountaintops what a beautiful way it is to raise a family.

Well, yeah. Except I really should tell you about the pain, too. A couple of weeks ago, Michael sat in the seat I'm in right now and learned that there really isn't a place for him on the soccer team of the local university where he hoped to spend the next four years. It had nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with a quirk of numbers. They had long told him he'd be there, but there was a dawning realization that this year's kids weren't playing; there wasn't going to be room for more of them next year.

We live in an area that is flush with colleges and universities. He began to look at rosters of every school in the area — a wide area. And with every click, we learned together that there are an abundance of underclass defenders on the area's soccer teams. He looked at me, blue eyes wide and filling, and said, “I'm going to have to pick between my dream and being close enough to be an integral part of the lives of my little siblings.” He pretty much hasn't slept since that night.

Nothing else was said. He is acutely aware of my pain. And I am aware of his. We are connected.

Copyright 2006 Elizabeth Foss

Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from northern Virginia. For more discussion of attachment parenting and other ideas related to a Catholic family lifestyle visit her blog click here.

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