The passing of time is so relative.
In some ways, I feel there is no way that my youngest child is heading off to college today. It’s impossible that 18 years have passed since the day he was born, right? I mean, he is the now age I was when I found out I was going to be his mother. There’s no way that’s right…that he is now the age of the “me” when we met as mother and son. That would indicate a passage of time I feel like is about 10 times longer that the amount of time that has actually passed. He’s really only three, right?
But – on the other hand – I only have the very faintest of memories of life before becoming his mother. I don’t really remember that girl – Kim before Eliah. She is like a character in a book I read as an assignment in school.
The book was kind of boring.
That I had to force myself to finish even though I hated it.
The lead character was quite lost. Maybe even a little one-dimensional.
A book I never re-read because it was so unappealing.
The moment I became Eliah’s Mom, that was the moment I feel like my life truly started. So, in that sense, it’s hard to believe I’ve only lived that life for 18 years. I’m such a different person than I was when he was born, I’m better in every way, and I can’t believe it only took me 18 years to get here. Surely it should have taken 50 or 60 years to go from the Pre-Eliah Kim to the Kim that is Now. Right? Someone can’t change that much in a mere 18 years, can they?
When he was born, I was so grateful to finally hold him in my arms. I had been talking to him through my abdomen for months. I was already confiding in him my hopes, my dreams, and my fears. Pregnancy was so hard. I was very young and felt lost and alone, and that child growing inside of me became the youngest therapist in the history of the practice. But, even after he was born, I narrated our lives to him. I talked to him as we shopped in the grocery store, as he barely was able to hold his head up. I talked to him as I did my homework in college. I talked to him as I held him in my arms at night before bed. He has always been the one I’ve talked to about everything, because for a long time I felt like he was all I had. He was the best listener since he couldn’t even crawl, much less tell me to shut up, already.
We spent a lot of time camping and hiking when he was little because I always felt at home in the woods and it was a free form of entertainment. I remember often wishing we could stay out there forever, as I hadn’t really found a good rhythm to my life in the real world. I was struggling with home, school, and growing up. But he and I, in the woods with friends, always brought me peace. We camped with my Dad once and he was shocked I would take such a stressful adventure with a small child and I told him the truth: “This is way less stressful than the life I live back home.”
Finally, when he was about 4, I started getting my act together. I figured out what I wanted to do with the years I had spent in college. I met a wonderful man I hoped to some day marry. I quit dyeing my hair. I discovered Harry Potter. Life was finally falling into a peaceful place.
But, I still talked to him about everything. About the projects I was working on in school. About my job interviews. About the apartment hunting. About moving to a new city. We talked about it all. And then, after Donnie proposed, Eliah even helped me plan my wedding. He helped me craft party favors and invitations. There is not a memory of my wedding planning that does not somehow involve him. Which is why that day holds a space in my heart more about family than about marriage. We started a new family that day, the three of us, and it is still one of my favorite days of my life.
And man…did life change from there on out. We settled into our non-college, married life which meant we had schedules and MONEY. We bought a house and he became a brother. TWICE. And through it all, I would still sit down with him at night with a bowl of cereal and we’d talk about our days. He’d hang out while I rocked his siblings to sleep. We’d go see movies on Mother’s Day. We went to midnight book releases for Harry Potter.
And as he got older, our talks got fewer because he started filling his life with friends and activities that I so envied. As he became a teenager, I often looked at him and was in awe of the person he was becoming. How did he turn out so amazing when I was such a mess? He was so well-rounded with a balanced life of friends, academics, and recreation. While I missed talking to him as much, I learned so much from him just watching him grow up.
And we still had so many adventures. From musicals to mud races…he always made me laugh. We stayed late nights at the school working on many shows together. We discussed politics and comedians. We shared favorite YouTubers and Books. We introduced each other to music and television. We bonded over shared interests and aimed our hatred at similar targets.
And I look back on all of that now and I’m just in awe. Not in awe of the adult he has become, but in awe of the adult he has inspired me to be. If I could choose one word to describe him, it would be BRAVE. From auditions to social stresses…from academics to the arts…from the stage to the classroom…he has shown bravery in every aspect of his life. Bravery I don’t think I discovered in myself until I watched him demonstrate his. Every time I get scared, I think of all of the challenges he has faced in his 18 years and I scoff at my fear.
And today…he does it again. He goes off to a new school in a new city with barely any hesitation in his steps. He does not need us to go with him. In contrast, I made my Dad hold my hand every step of the way. But he’s allowing us to go, because he knows we want to. But he knows (and we know) he could do it on his own. Like he’s done so many things in his life.
And I have to be brave again, now.
It is my hope that he finds such a place for himself in this world that he doesn’t need us anymore. Donnie and I never came home but for brief visits after we left for college, and I truly hope this is the same thing for Eliah.
My wishes for him are simple. I hope today is a stepping stone towards his adult life where his trips home grow shorter and the time between them longer. I hope he finds a community that accepts him and a path that challenges him. I hope this is the beginning of an amazing journey where he finds the road to his future. I hope he takes risks. I hope he has fun. I hope he embraces the excitement the years will bring him and discovers wonderful parts of his spirit that were waiting to shine.
And I hope I harness the bravery he taught me: to stay strong and support him as he tests out his wings. To encourage him to fly, even at the risk of falling.
Even though every voice in my head it telling me to hold him down and never let him go.