Parent Pathways: These summer adventures won’t last forever

07/21/2014 12:00 AM

08/25/2014 10:48 PM

My 11-year-old son and I just got back from the beach. My husband can’t always get off work to go with us, so sometimes during school breaks we’ll take the train to Charlotte or go to the beach. We even went to St. Louis one summer to see my dad. He’s a neat kid, and I enjoy spending time with him.

But one of my friends warned me recently that traveling solo with mom might not be cool this time next year. And I just want so badly for that not to be true.

With my son going into middle school in just a few weeks, I know things are going to change.

It won’t be just an earlier wake-up time and harder homework, either. More of the “world” is leeching onto his sweet brain. The world is screaming, actually, to make itself known. What’s cool and not cool. How you should or shouldn’t be.

It’s exhausting. Don’t you remember trying to figure it all out? Catherine Drinker Bowen said it perfectly: “Many a man who has known himself at 10 forgets himself utterly between 10 and 30.”

I know change is inevitable, but I wish I could pause time for a bit. It’s like being on a great ride at Disney. As it starts to come to a stop, you think “Wait! Not yet!”

That’s how I feel sometimes as a parent of an only child. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I’m glad certain times are behind us (potty training, ear infections, endless questions), but occasionally I wax nostalgic, and I’ll think about the fact that my son will never be that age again.

And as a parent and a person, I’m done with that phase of my life.

While we were at the beach I woke up one morning thinking, “This is going to be the type of vacation I’ll miss five years from now.”

I know it’s true. We had one good wave-riding day, and we caught a few waves at the exact same time, the surf carrying us in side by side, laughing. He couldn’t believe I was riding waves with him.

That will change. In another year or so, I’ll be taking along a buddy. And that’s cool. Friends are one of the greatest gifts in life. I so want him to have that.

I can’t pause anything, so I just need to remember it all. The parts where I was irritable and cranky because it was hot and our stuff was heavy. The times he was bored and restless, missing his friends and getting on my nerves.

One of our days at the beach, the wind was coming out of the southwest at about 25 mph, and the water was way too rough for boarding. So we rented a bicycle built for two, which sounded like a good idea at the time.

I’d momentarily forgotten that everyone in my family rides bicycles like maniacs. There was no coasting allowed, and I was never pedaling fast enough. A lot of shouting was involved. We pedaled that bike so hard, one of the chains flew off.

Before I could give it much more thought, my son jumped off the back and fixed the chain and we were off again.

I loved to see the pride it gave him to be able to fix something that had me head-scratching. And that’s when it hit me: If time didn’t pass as it was supposed to, he’d just be stuck instead of on to the next adventure.

When I think about it that way, what he’s gaining instead of what I’m losing, I can’t wait.

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