By Guest Blogger Tracy Huneycutt
Last fall, I binge-watched the twelve episodes of the “Mad About You” reboot. Even though I was familiar with the premise of the show, I never watched the original series, as it aired when I was a teenager. I found myself intrigued by some of the reboot previews and was hooked once I started watching the first few episodes.
When the original series ended, Paul & Jamie’s daughter was a toddler; in the new episodes, she was starting college. The married couple had spent the last 18 years of their lives fully invested in raising their child, and was trying to figure out who they were – both as individuals and as a married couple – now that they were empty nesters. In one of the later episodes, once they felt ready to enjoy the new dynamic of life being just the two of them again, their daughter announced that she had been kicked out of college and was moving back in. They encourage her to try to get back into school, which she does, only to quit in the next episode in order to spend a year at sea helping to clean the oceans – with no cell phone or internet access. The last episode shows the parents working through their fears and concerns as they allow their daughter to follow her dream.
Even though my own child is 11 years away from turning 18, the premise of the finale struck a chord with me, as I often wonder about his future. I wonder if he’ll go to a traditional four-year college, if he will go to community college, or if he will forgo college altogether and decide on a trade school or begin working after he graduates high school. I wonder if he will pursue his love of art and become an artist of some kind, if he will pursue his love of animals and become a vet or biologist, or if a path we’ve never dreamed of will come his way later in life. I wonder if he will want to stay close to home or if he’ll want to spread his wings and try living further away from us.
My seven-year-old still loves to fold himself into my lap and play with my hair and tell me how much he loves me. I know this time is fleeting; I know soon enough he will be a teenager who will be in and out of our house, busy with his own life and interests. I am already preparing for the fights and arguments that will ensue in those years – even now, our strong-willed and stubborn child will stand up to us when he doesn’t agree with our decisions, and we have to sit him down and explain that it’s our job as his parents to keep him safe and to teach him important lessons.
Once my son turns 18, I will no longer have control. He may choose a path that we do not agree with or would not desire for him, but the best we can hope for is that if we raise him to be a good man, raise him to love others and to be kind, raise him to be responsible and hard-working, and raise him with essential life tools, that when he does become a man, all of these experiences and insight will positively shape his path. He may wander for a few years as he tries to experience life on his own, he may want to try something a bit risky for the sheer experience of it, or he may know exactly who he wants to be and delve into that path from the time he leaves our home.
I am reminded that even though I went to a four-year college right after high school, I spent many years wandering myself before I settled down, met my husband, and started our family. I remember the fun trips and excursions with friends, trying new things without abandon, and now knowing that all of those moments shaped me into who I am today.
In the last episode of the series reboot, Paul is sitting in the office of the restaurant where they are having a birthday party for his daughter. She had just announced her plans to spend a year at sea, and he is distraught. He is being confronted by family and friends who are trying to calm him down and offer him advice. Finally, his mother-in-law comes to talk to him. He expresses to her his worry over his daughter’s plans, and she says, “Will you quit worrying about your daughter’s life, and start enjoying your own?”
There will be a time when I will be faced with this same reality. There will be a day when it just me and my husband again, trying to figure out our new normal once our days are no longer consumed with the car rider line, helping with homework, driving to and from sports practices, or walking our child back to bed over and over again when he starts asking burning questions about life at 8:30 at night. We will miss those moments tremendously, even as we begin discovering “just us” again.
So, for the next 11 years, I will make sure I am relishing and being present during every moment I have with my child while slowly letting go, little by little, year after year, until the time comes when he fully steps out on his own. And trusting that whatever path he takes, it will lead to great things. (And that at the end of the day, he will still want to call his mom and tell her all about it.)
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