After high school I went to St. Louis to begin my studies in journalism. I worked a number of part-time jobs before landing a plum management position at Lane Bryant in Northwest Plaza. Quickly, I found myself, at nineteen, working 50 hours a week on top on being a full-time student. During the rare visits home I was so jealous of my friends. Where I was overloaded with stress coming at me from every direction, their lives didn’t seem to have changed much. I felt like I was wasting my youth.
So, two months into a skipped semester that I couldn’t afford and the stress of mounting pressures at work to bring up my sales; I retreated. I moved back in with my mother and began a year of truly wasting my youth. I was living in the moment and not in a good way. I couldn’t imagine a life for myself past the age of 25. 25 being the magical age when my behavior would become unacceptable. I was completely apathetic.
Then in January of 1997 I became pregnant. Two months later I left the father, knowing full well that the only support I’d get would be from my own family. And in those first few months after he was born, I actually thought I’d be like everyone else; work at a convenience store (not that there’s anything wrong with that), send the kid to his grandparents on the weekend, and keep my socializing completely unchanged. For a while I did.
Then he started smiling at me, genuinely smiling at me. I don’t know if the magnitude of that simple gesture can ever be properly explained. He was looking to me and smiling. It was definitely an ‘Aha’ moment. How could I ever have thought that a life of settling, would be good enough for him?
So, this time around I worked only 40 hours a week, went to school full-time (18 credit hour semesters to get done quicker), AND I was a single mother. I sincerely miss those times. There wasn’t a minute that wasn’t accounted for and filled with a purpose and meaning. It was important to me that my son grew up with a mother who had enough sense to care about herself just as much as she cared about him. This wasn’t just a need to get off the couch, this was a drive to teach him the difference between living and existing, by example. Having Teagan helped me reclaim my life, and I gotta say it’s been pretty darn good and keeps getting better. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how different things would’ve been without him.
Now at 14, my boy is turning into a man. He’s as tall as me, his voice cracks, and his shoulders are broad and strong. He doesn’t belong to me anymore and it’s impossible for me not to miss him. I miss curling up on the couch to watch Harry Potter together, our trip to the beach and all the shellsheefs, the summer spent at the pool, and painting the kitchen Smurf blue. And nowadays it warms my heart to hear him say, “Mom, sometimes I miss when it was just you and me.”
Here is a link, to my favorite poem about children growing. Below is the part that really gets to me.
…But before they enter
I will have said,
Your bones are lovely,
and before their strange hands
there was always this hand that formed…
…If I could have watched you grow
as a magical mother might,
if I could have seen through my magical transparent belly,
there would have been such a ripening within:
the seed taking on its own,
life clapping the bedpost,
bones from the pond,
thumbs and two mysterious eyes,
the awfully human head,
the heart jumping like a puppy,
the important lungs,
while it becomes!
as it does now,
a world of its own,
a delicate place.
I say hello
to such shakes and knockings and high jinks,
such music, such sprouts,
such dancing-mad-bears of music,
such necessary sugar,
how do you grow?
You grow this way.
You are too many to eat.
What I want to say,
is that there is nothing in your body that lies.
All that is new is telling the truth.
I'm here, that somebody else,
an old tree in the background.
stand still at your door,
sure of yourself, a white stone, a good stone--
as exceptional as laughter
you will strike fire,
that new thing!