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.