As we often do, my son and I made our way around the neighborhood together. He slows himself down so we can stay together. It was cold, but I didn't really notice it until we were home. One thing I can always say about my son...he knows how to keep the conversation going. I don't even feel the cold when we are out together, moving toward our goals.
We've had a lot to talk about lately. It's been interesting/painful/poignant/powerful to see my children turn 18 and start moving towards adulthood. I guess that sounds funny. They've been moving towards adulthood since they were born and I've lamented recently that they are both growing up way too fast and not growing up nearly fast enough.
18 is a weird time, man.
If you know me, you know I have very close relationships with both my children. I have noticed, to my dismay, that my son and I have more of a distance than we used to. I hate it, but I get it.
My daughter is at a point where she is drawing near to me (which I'm thrilled about). My son is at a point where he thinks he has it all figured out.
Well, he doesn't. I mean, I'm 41 and I don't know what the Hell I'm doing a lot of the time, so I'm pretty sure that this tall, skinny dude with a wispy mustache and not quite two semesters of community college under his belt has the secrets of the world in his brain but to be totally honest, and this not just a mother's pride talking...he's a pretty sharp kid.
He gets things that a lot of people don't get. He's always been a critical thinker. He understands history and politics way better than I ever did and to be completely blunt, his enthusiasm for his first-ever Presidential election caused me to care more than I've ever cared before. I used to think my voice didn't matter and because of my son, I changed my mind. We went together to vote and it was a really special experience. I will remember it for the rest of my life and I hope he will too.
He's a good human being. He really is. To his core.
A few years ago my son told me he was considering a military career and my heart seized and my stomach went cold. My father is a Vietnam veteran. My nephew is in the Air Force. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the military, but the thought of my only son fighting in a war and then having to live with the consequences the rest of his life makes me, quite frankly, sick.
He decided against that some time ago and has been really thinking about his future and what he wants to do with his life. This has led to a lot of really great conversations and my renewed thought of, "Oh my good God how on EARTH is someone 18 years old supposed to know what they want to do for forever??!?!" Because, really.
Last night he said to me, as he's said once before recently, "How would you feel if I went into politics?"
And, as it did before, my heart seized and my stomach went cold.
I want him, my son, to be whoever he wants to be. He's smart. He's capable. He has a heart as big as the sky. He wants things to be better. He wants everyone to be equal. He sees no colors, he sees no religions, no gender...he just sees people. He just loves.
We just came off the most horrible, vitriolic, painful election season that I think anyone who is currently alive can ever remember. I know, now more than ever, there are a whole lot of people who would hate my son.
I hurt typing those words because, my God. If you know my son...I mean, I can barely type this through my tears. He's great. He's a great person. He's hysterically funny. He's so, so smart. He's amazing. He and his sister literally kept me alive and after that kept me wanting to stay alive when my head and my heart was in the darkest place I can imagine.
I have had conversations with him in the past few weeks that I never, ever wanted to have. I have told him things about me, about things that have happened to me in my life, that almost no one knows. I have shared with him things that I am literally afraid to put out into the universe because of how so many other women before me were treated. I have literally never felt less valued in my life and I felt I had to tell him these things because things have got to get better. The past few weeks and months have been so horrible and depressing that there have been times I haven't even felt like getting out of bed, and that's real.
The thought of thousands or millions of people hating him and tearing him apart and making up lies about him? My God. MY GOD.
So what do you say, to your son? Who is eighteen and not yet jaded by the world. Who still can't quite see around corners. Who is brave and smart and amazing.
"It's hard, baby," I told him.
"I know," he said.
He always says he knows. I think that's part of being 18.
"There are so many people who wouldn't agree with you," I told him.
"That's the way it works mom."
I know that's the way it works. I do. I don't like it, but I know it. Baby, I've been banging my head on that glass ceiling for years. I get you.
"They would bring up your bio-dad," I warned him.
"So?" he said. Because he's eighteen and he knows everything. "Let them bring him up. He left me. Big deal. I didn't do anything wrong."
"I know you didn't. But they would call your mom a whore."
That made him pause.
"But you aren't," he is confident. "I know you aren't. You know you aren't."
"Of course," I told him. "But I just think about the mothers. I have to think about the mothers...I'm a mother. I think about my son, my child, my baby, getting torn apart. About all the lies. I just can't stand the thought of them tearing you down."
"Mom," he said. "It's been happening my whole life."
And that, my friends, is when the tears started for me last night.
It is hard to be a mother. It is so, so hard. Even if your kid is the captain of the football team or the head cheerleader and has a million, billion friends, it's damn hard.
It's hard when your kid is the underdog. It's hard when your kid doesn't quite fit in, in a town where for some reason it's quite important to fit in. It's hard when you see your child suffer with the same anxiety and depression that has plagued you for your whole life. It's hard to see your kid get picked on, get bullied. It's hard to see your kid standing up for others and then being attacked. It's hard when your kid knows in his heart, in his soul, what's right and you see the world around him is in no way ready to hear it. It's so hard when your kid currently claims no religion yet lives a path that is so much of what Jesus would want him to do. It's all just so hard.
Last night, I didn't have the answers for my son. This morning he hugged me extra hard before he went off to school.
Maybe in seventeen years, this country will be ready for someone like Jonathan. He'll be thirty-five then. He'll have more life experiences. He'll have been knocked down a few times and had to pick himself back up. His mother, hopefully, will be braver and not just quietly remove herself from the hate. Maybe his mother will be brave enough to tell her stories too, because in her heart she knows she's not the only one. Maybe by then his mother will be brave enough to fight back, because it's important. It's just too important.
That's my prayer, my song, and every bit of my heart. This kid, his sister, our family, and our future. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will change this or how we choose to live our lives. Love, acceptance, community. Always.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.