Every Friday night at our house, we watch a movie. (Well, every Friday unless we’re watching one of our kids perform.) Last Saturday (after watching our youngest in “Bye Bye Birdie on Friday), we watched “Avengers, Infinity Wars” despite our youngest insisting on “Finding Nemo.” I promised we’d watch it this week, so tonight we got take out and put in the movie.
Immediately, I was flooded with memories. “Finding Nemo” was the first movie we took our son to see in a theater. Our middle child was just a few days old, when my mom offered to watch her so we could take our little guy to the movies and spend some time with him. He sat on my lap in wonder for the whole movie.
My son was 2 1/2 when the movie was released. He is now 18. He wouldn’t start pre-school for another year in 2003. Now, he’s weeks away from graduating high school, getting ready to choose where he’ll study for the next four years.
It happened in the blink of an eye.
Of course, the theme of the movie didn’t help my sentimentality. A parent’s feelings of worry, pride, and love for his child? Forget it! I cried through far too much of the movie. I really tried to reign it in, because I could have just broken down into an ugly cry.
When my son was a toddler, he was curious, adventurous, and stubborn. He was my little buddy, and when he stopped talking altogether at 19 months, it was worrisome. After the doctor pulled a giant piece of wax from his ear and he could finally hear his own voice clearly again, when he resumed talking he’d lost several sounds he’d previously been able to make. He went to speech therapy at the age of 2, and continued til 2nd grade. I’ll never forget how nervous I was when he started kindergarten. Like Marlon worried about Nemo and his “gimpy fin” I worried that other kids wouldn’t be able to understand him. Thankfully, 5- and 6-year-olds are much more accepting than adults can be, and he made some great friends, who never made fun of him. Some of those kids he’s still friends with today.
Being a parent is watching your baby turn into an independent person. It’s going from holding a helpless, tiny infant and doing everything for them to slowly letting them take control… first, sitting up, then crawling, then walking, until you watch them walk away from you on that first day of school, hoping that they’re ready. Hoping that you’ve done what you can to help them be ready for that independence away from you for 6 hours a day. Hoping they make friends and follow directions and learn and be excited about all the new things they’ll be doing.
Being a parent is watching your child get hurt – physically and emotionally. It’s comforting them when they’re sick and sleeping on an uncomfortable hospital cot when they have surgery. It’s holding their hand through blood draws and shots at their checkups. It’s wiping their tears when their first friend hurts their feelings. Or they didn’t get the part. Or they didn’t win the award.
Being a parent is 18 years of love, culminating in their “graduation” not just from high school, but in a way, from you. Knowing that if you did your job right they’ll be able to go out into the world on their own… be a contributing member of society, and a good human. In a few short months, I’ll be moving him into a dorm somewhere, trying my damnedest not to breakdown into sobs as I walk out of the room and let him go on this journey. I think we’ve done a good job and I trust that he’ll do great, but that doesn’t make it any easier.