My Mom has a few nicknames for me, most of which aren’t even real words. I vividly remember the first time I was embarrassed by my Mother. She and I were at the grocery store, and at one point I was at the other end of the aisle when she loudly called out to me, “Hipsnot!”. I immediately looked up horrified, as I imagined that some of my fellow high school peers were likely in the store somewhere. Days went by and I heard nothing from them, so apparently I lucked out.
Now that I’m a mother myself, I try to pay attention to my son’s reactions so that I won’t embarrass him as he gets older. Up until last week, I thought I was doing a fairly good job at this. Every morning, I hurriedly walk my son to the bus stop. We stand there with another boy, while we wait for the school bus to arrive. When it comes, I tell my son to have a good day and they head off to school. We’ve had this same routine for the past several years. He’s my little boy, so of course I’m going to take care of him.
Then, the other morning reality hit me. “He’s in high school.”
With that thought, I mentally stopped for a moment and looked around. The other boy was standing there with his headphones on listening to music, being a typical teenager. My son was standing there with his ‘mommy’. Why was I still escorting my teenage son to the bus stop? He knows to look both ways before crossing the street. He won’t go off with a stranger. He knows what bus to get on. So, why was I there?
My son may not have voiced anything about it and perhaps he doesn’t care. All I know, is if I were him and my Mom was still escorting me to and from the bus stop every morning, I would be humiliated. Teenagers especially, don’t want to be treated like a child. So, why was I doing it to my son? It was time to let him go.
Yesterday was his first day of walking to and from the bus stop alone. He thought he was alone. I was spying on him from behind a tree. What an interesting first day it was too. As he approached the road, I heard the roaring sound of the bus and thought, “Will he stop and wait for the bus to go by, or will he race to go in front of it?” Whew! He waited. First test – pass.
Then, right as the bus was going by, a car came up to the corner to make a right turn. I was in sprint position, ready to race up the road to save him. Nervously I watched and wondered, “Will he run past the car assuming the driver will wait for him, or will he let the car go by first?” He let the car go. Second test – pass! I took a deep breath of relief.
He crossed the road, boarded the bus and I heard an ‘all is well’ honk from the bus driver as they drove off. To help confirm to the neighbors that I’m crazy, I cheered for him and did a little celebration dance by myself on the sidewalk. When the afternoon came, he happily bounced through the front door right on time. My little boy is not so little anymore. He’s growing up and I’m so proud of him.
I’ve learned that loosening the grip on our kids takes an enormous amount of courage, but it has to be done sooner or later. No matter how much we’d like to, we can’t treat them like children forever. We have to let them grow up.