Today is Big’s birthday. He is 22 years old. I keep having to repeat that to myself. My joyful, curious, take-on-the-world-with-his-sense-of-humor little man is a big man now.
Birthdays always make me ruminate on this whole motherhood thing. With Big, I have been telling people since he was a toddler that I can’t take any credit for how sweet he is or how smart he is–he was born that way. It is who he is. Now I also tell people that I can’t take too much credit for his loyalty to his friends, his work ethic, his refusal to be one of those 20-somethings who cares about nothing but partying. It is who he is.
He visits his mama and dad and brothers weekly, sometimes several times. He has 9 years on his next brother, but you wouldn’t know it when they’re together. He is attentive and interested; he even plays their imagination games with them still, breaking out the Nerf guns, the Nerf swords, or other paraphernalia. The Littles never feel that Big doesn’t have time for them. Even though he’s out on his own, occupied by the love of his life, finishing up college and working hard, he always makes times for his brothers. After all, he did beg me for 9 years to give him one (sorry it took so long, buddy. I had to find you guys a good dad first).
I can’t take credit for the brother he is. He is just that guy.
When Martin needs help around the farm or a partner-in-crime for a trip to get building materials or even just car parts, Big is always the first person he calls. When Martin first came into our lives, I was a little jealous of their relationship. Big and I had been all we had for so many years that even though I fell in love with Martin partly because of the way he treated Big, I lost a little bit to him. Because Big had been craving a strong man to admire all his life and now he had one. He didn’t need his mama in quite the same way. I’ll never forget the moment I knew I was going to marry Martin. We were standing on the front porch of my house and Big had just said something really sweet before scampering back inside. Martin looked at me. “How could anyone ever leave a kid like that?” He said of my ex-husband. “He has so much love to give.”
I can’t take credit for that. Big was born with his big heart.
So I found Big a daddy and gave him brothers and watched him grow into the most amazing young man I have ever known. I have watched him fall passionately in love with a girl I would have handpicked for him if he hadn’t found her himself. I listened while he made the decision to become a teacher, and I knew it was a perfect job for such a compassionate person with so much love to give.
And I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I don’t want to. I have always said I am blessed to know him, let alone be his mother. After 22 years, he still makes me the luckiest woman in the world. I am still as in awe of him as I was when he spoke his first sentence at 15 months. (It was, “Car-co, get down!” The cat’s name was Scarlett but he couldn’t quite get those syllables out. He did, however, know she wasn’t supposed to be up there.)
So Happy Birthday, Big. Thank you for making this motherhood thing easy. Thank you for being you. I love you.
My friends, being the mother of a grown child is different from having littles. It has a whole new set of instructions. You have to choose when to offer advice and when to let your child work things out for himself. You have to be careful not to inhibit him while worrying always about his safety because he is away from your eyes and out of your control. You have to Trust. Trust that you did things right and he will live his life in a way that makes him happy and causes minimal heartache. You have to stay out of his relationships, because he doesn’t need you nagging him, but you have to be there for him if he needs your input. And trust me when I say, sometimes that is such a fine line I don’t have any idea where to put my feet. But it is just as joyous as having littles, getting to see the outcome of all your hard work.
I look forward to his future more than I ever have. I hope your experience is as wonderful, rewarding, amazing, fun, incredible, and awe-inspiring as mine has been. And your weekend is sunny. 🙂