We made it, Buddy! Happy 18th birthday! Do you feel any different than you did yesterday? Maybe you should. Today marks the day that you can legally vote (Please do so deliberately and carefully), purchase cigarettes (Please don't ruin those perfectly healthy lungs. I invested 9 months in their creation!), enter into binding contracts (Beware of unnecessary debt...which pretty much means any and all debt), and fight and die for your country (Let's hope it never comes to that).
Since this is such a momentous occasion, I thought I would write you a very personal letter (and then post it on the internet for the whole world to see). Today is both a wonderful and miserable day for me. I've found myself vacillating between exuberant celebration for having successfully birthed, raised, taught, nurtured, and released out into the world a productive and thoughtful member of society...and getting lost in a bottle of wine, shitfaced drunk because my baby is all grown up.
I know that I often view you through mom-colored glasses, seeing only your best qualities and elements of your nature...the rougher edges made foggy as they are viewed through love. But I do know that you have grown into a thoughtful, respectful, intelligent, and freethinking person. I am proud and humbled to have in small ways helped you on that journey.
The journey hasn't been an easy one. I was really just a kid when you came along. I knew nothing about being a parent (although I was sure I had it all figured out. I mean...I'd read books and stuff. How hard could it possibly be?) and we had to grow together. I apologize for my many mistakes and shortcomings. And while there were many times I understood why in some species of animals mothers eat their young, I am mostly grateful we weren't born guppies or hamsters or polar bears. Because had I devoured you in some moment of frazzled motherhood exhaustion and desperation, I would have missed out on so many moments of deep joy and friendship.
Yes...friendship. I count it as my greatest success and reward as a parent to have helped raise someone so wonderfully witty and caring and profound, that I would seek you as a friend even if we didn't share DNA and hormonal bonding. I am as proud to call you my friend as I am to call you my son.
You've stretched my heart in the same way you once stretched my body. Those silvery lines of stretchmarks are lasting signs of how you grew too big for my body to hold. I imagine similar silvery stretchmarks on my heart (metaphorical of course, because....OUCH.)...which also wasn't big enough in the beginning to hold all of my love for you. Sometimes it still feels like it isn't big enough, and that I might just burst open (But then who would clean THAT mess up?).
I've been thinking for several months now about all of the wonderful cliched grown-up advice I should give you on this, your first day of legal adulthood. Things like:
- Remember who you are.
- Be confident, but stay humble.
- Don't forget to floss.
- Life isn't about finding yourself, it's about creating yourself.
- Never make eye contact while eating a banana.
- Be a voice not an echo.
- Please, please, please don't get in an accident if you aren't wearing clean underwear.
- The grass is only greener on the other side because it's fertilized with bullshit.
- You were born an original. Don't die a copy.
And most importantly:
- DON'T GROW UP! IT'S A TRAP!
But I tossed out the list. I've always been the kind of mother who doesn't tell you what to do (unless it's the 10th time I've asked you to take out the trash...or feed the dog...or to absolutely not under any circumstances kill your little brother with a sword!). Instead I've let you figure most things out on your own, to make your own decisions and mistakes, to give advice and boundaries in ways that still let you seek your heart's desire. Why should I start telling you what to do now? I know you are going to be just fine, probably much more than fine.
Welcome to the adult world, Buddy. I assure you it isn't quite everything that it's hyped up to be. But it isn't as bad as some people make it out to be, either. In fact, it's pretty much what you make it. I know you'll make it a beautiful one (in much the same way you've made mine beautiful). So your life is no longer in my hands...it's in your own. But remember that no matter where this adventure might lead you...I will always be your mother, and your friend...and your number one fan.
Go get 'em, Tiger!
And now I might just lose myself in that bottle of wine. I'll raise a toast to you, my beautiful Baby Boy. Let's have this talk again when you turn 21...