Thursday, October 04, 2007

End of an Era

My youngest child, Matthew, turned 18 today. My boys are no longer children, at least in the eyes of the law. For Matthew, it means there are some major and permanent paradigmatic changes, but for the foreseeable future, his day-to-day life remains unchanged. For the next several months at least, he is still very much dependent upon me - and I am quite all right with that. But it does cause one to be reflective and in my case that means some redundancy.

I have been a single parent for most of his and his brothers’ lives. Not a single father, but a single parent. There is nothing special about my gender and this role. True, there are more women than men who have been thrust into this position, but being unusual doesn’t make me special. It’s hard no matter who you are. Although the term “dysfunctional” has become ubiquitous, our home-life has never even remotely resembled the classic picture of a “normal” family. But the love was (and is) there. In that respect at least, our family is very functional.

I don’t know how I feel about this milestone. I’m not sure what it represents. It has no immediate or even short-term repercussions, true, but it is an advanced warning of sorts. It’s almost a wake-up call that is announcing the next phase in his life - as well as mine. Again, there is precious little “typical” about where we are as a family, but it is also true that regardless of the adversity - and there has been significant adversity - we are still cohesive. No matter the missteps, the bad luck or misfortune… and the blessings, for there have been plenty of those as well, we are still important in one another’s lives.

Yes, important. As in life would be decidedly different if any of us were not in it. As in my life would be lacking something necessary. In other words, a major part of what makes us who we are is each other. And that is important. Next spring, Matt will be graduating high school and he will begin the next major chapter in his life. This December I will graduate from college, starting a new chapter in mine. Matt’s brothers are also at major junctures in their lives. Whatever direction our lives take, there will be a constant that cannot be erased.

We are a family. Unorthodox, unusual, even dysfunctional, but a family all the same. We have proven that nothing is stronger than the ties that bind us together - nothing. It does not look like the family of my childhood and it doesn’t matter. Like the family of my youth, there is only one thing that is important - us. And we have that.

16 comments:

flleenie said...

Are you and Matthew alot alike? Raising kids is hard enough, but more so if they they have your personality. I know, I have a "mini me", but she is my life. When she graduates & leaves, it will be tough letting her go...
I sympathize

Catherine said...

Congratulations on your part in establishing those ties - they don't just happen without work. I have five and it felt quite strange when the youngest reached 21.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Lovely Mike! And congratulations to Matt, and to you too! Having each other and the love---well, that really is what matters most! I love that you said 'we are a fubctional family'....it's great to read that and greater still that this is the case....I congratulate you on that, too!

Oh and Michele says Howdy To You, too!

Bob-kat said...

Wishing you son Many Happy Returns. You are quite right about family too. The ties are very strong, despite whatever life throws your way. It's one of the few things you cna depend on in life.

Becky68 said...

Wow- I understand how you feel- I could've written your post though I couldn't have written it as well- My oldest will be 18 in January & graduates High School this spring. (she's already very fond of reminding me she doesn't need me anymore)
Of course I'm only beginning- my younger two- at ages 11 & 8- have a few more years in the nest but it is a milestone which I have mixed emotions about.
I can understand the non-traditional not exactly ordinary family life too as I am a single parent & just my job's hours make us a little odd in a lot of ways- let alone my much less restrictive rules than most parents around me (I'm from the north east but live in the rural south- parenting is very different in different areas)
Happy Birthday to your son!
Michele sent me today.

November Rain said...

michelle sent me...


My daughter (my baby) turns 17 soon

My son is 19

kids grow up to fast

on one hand you are glad but on the other its tough

kenju said...

You must be proud of your role, Mike, and rightfully so. Raising even one child to the age of 18 while alone is quite an accomplishment, let alone 3 (it is 3, isn't it?). Doing that while attending college too? Miraculous!

Thumper said...

The big thing when my son turned 18 was no more curfew. And let me tell you, that's HARD. It was a long time before I got used to going to bed before he got home some nights...

Here via Michele's tonight!

Reflekshins said...

congratulations !

sounds like you guys are more functional than most "functional" families.

cheers via Michele's

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Hi Mike...Michele sent me back to you tonight and I can only say I have great great admiration for the job you've done with your kids being a single parent....! I know it had to be very difficult at times....But here you all are, and your youngest son now 18....and on his way! You did better than "good". You did GREAT!

Hey, if you get a chance, come on over and look at my last two posts...Some pretty pictures of a very magical plane with'dialogue' to go with it...I think you will enjoy them.

Moogie said...

Congratulations to Matt on reaching this milestone, and to you, for establishing those close ties. I've always believed that in most families, you could find some sort of dysfunction if you looked hard enough. It sounds as though you have done a magnificent job. My oldest shares the same birthday as you. She turned 13. I wrote about it as well. It's hard when they grow up...but fascinating to watch.

Awareness said...

It's a bittersweet feeling, I'm sure as are the important transitions in our lives......

More importantly, the milestone has offered you a chance to stop and glance at your family and how you have all grown together.

My two kids are younger.....but I realize just how quickly the time will pass and then they will be on their own.

Life passes in an unmeasurable glimpse doesn't it?
Thank God for the ties that bind us......

Hope you're having a great weekend Mike.

PI said...

Congratulations Mike to you and your son. The only vital ingredient in a family is love and clearly there is an abundance of that. All the blood, sweat and tears you have poured into yours will give you a harvest for the rest of your life. Hats off to you.
I'm so glad I got here via Michele.

Snaggle Tooth said...

I remember how I felt when my baby graduated then took off hours away for college in the fall. Then she graduated there, too, in what seems now like the blink of an eye... It feels like a huge parental accomplishment!
The bond formed while living together still remains, but yes, the distance is felt also. Time, it flies.

Congrats Matt! (n Dad, too!)

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

beautiful....

colleen said...

I don't mean to sound sexist, but I'm always moved by a single father parent. My brother was one and I was always proud that he stepped up.

I'm glad you happened by Loose Leaf this evening to add what you did to the dialouge on the controversy going on here in Floyd. Thanks.