My kids were here for Christmas. The Boy went home Thursday. The Girl went home yesterday. How is it that my home is no longer theirs?
I used to think my son's dark days would go on forever. They didn't of course, but having survived them, why do I not get more of his sunshine?
He and his cousin were locked in a laughing "I've done grosser stuff than you" verbal sparring match the other day. I pulled my son into the laundry room and whispered that I'd done grosser stuff than either of them—cleaning months-old used condoms out from under his bed after he left home, for example. We laughed together as though at a shared secret, and a pleasant afternoon went right on without incident or ugliness.
There was a time—more than a decade, in fact—when that exchange would have been unimaginable. Today it's just part of the flow of love and laughter when we're together.
The Boy's adolescence was stormy, to say the least. The Girl's had hardly a visible ripple. I used to think The Boy came to be my son because he would need me and The Girl came to be my daughter because I would need her. Now I see that we all simply need each other.
The Boy was born on my birthday; The Girl was born on her namesake grandmother's birthday. These children were mine and I was theirs from the moment they came into existence, even though each grew within another woman's womb. We are all part of one another's destinies, our lives fulfilling promises our souls have made together.
The Boy's third grade teacher once told me she felt as though he had an Einstein quality locked inside of him if only we could find and release it. Our extended family played Scattergories on Christmas evening and The Boy shocked, totally shocked, me with his quick wit and range and sheer intelligence. This from a boy who flunked every class in every grade from 5th grade through his sophomore year. Only a year in a hideously expensive private boarding school specializing in kids with emotional difficulties got him back on track and through high school. He has not been willing to even attempt college. He's 24 and working in a factory owned by his father, limping from one paycheck to the next.
What now? How do we fulfill those soul promises to one another? How do I help my son find his light? How do I support my daughter, who has followed a more traditional route—good grades, sports, college—but has no idea where she's headed? I do not know. Absolutely have no clue.
Years ago, in western states like Montana and Wyoming, driving speed was regulated only at night, when you could not "exceed the headlights." I never quite understood the concept before, but now that the kids are young adults it feels as though life is moving faster than our ability to recognize the terrain around us. Their choices are entirely their own and I'm a voice in the phone or a loving presence in their heads and hearts, encouraging them to (as I was horrified to hear echoed in the new Freaky Friday movie a few years ago) "make good choices."
In reality, I have my destiny to fulfill, and my children have theirs. We are interconnected, but they drive their own trains, as I drive mine. And so I pray.