[Baltimore Sun] Parenting from the precipice: I didn’t see my son’s layers forming, like the Grand Canyon’s | GUEST COMMENTARY

Read Time:3 Minute, 24 Second

My baby graduates from high school today. To commemorate this milestone, my husband and I took him on a spring break trip to the Southwest.

For 10 days, we drove around New Mexico and Arizona, from one big rock and national park to another, to taco stands and Wal-Marts for new socks and snack food. At every stop, our son Henry folded his 6-foot, 3-inch frame into the front passenger seat of our rented SUV and popped in his earbuds. He needed legroom and the best view of the scenery.

From the backseat, I wondered where the time had gone. My designated spot was where he sat for so many years, first as a round-faced baby, then as a red-haired toddler. In elementary school, he left soon-to-fossilize cracker crumbs in seat crevices beside his booster seat. Middle-schooler Henry pulled on soccer cleats in the backseat while we raced (late) to practice. Two years ago, he shifted to the driver’s seat to navigate the Beltway, and I pumped imaginary brakes beside him.

Our final stop during spring break was the Grand Canyon. On the South Rim, I watched him walk to the edge of a geologic wonder created by chaos and pressure. Two billion years ago, sediments formed the layers of rocks in the inner gorge. Plate tectonics then shifted and lifted the rocks, which later were carved by the Colorado River.

Parenting Henry (and his brother and only sibling who is older by a decade) has been layers of laundry, too much screen time, Legos, and driving to daycare, drum lessons, and Boy Scouts. I can’t yet see how other forces — metamorphic veins from big shifts like remote learning in our basement playroom and the everyday friction of family dynamics — have shaped him.

I didn’t see his layers forming. That’s the rub of parenting. Life is in the little moments, and parenting is mostly little moments. I was focused on pulling wet mittens from little hands, trying to remember algebra, nagging him to put out the trash cans. Even now as I tend to the immediate — Is his shirt ironed for graduation? Did I order him a yearbook? — he is slicing through sediment with the force of who he is becoming.

In the coming weeks and throughout the summer, I will worry whether his layers (and mine) can carry the weight of what’s next. Our plates are sliding past and diving under one another to create yet unseen formations.

I hope we’ve taught him what he needs to know to maneuver through the margins and moments. He is kind and helpful and can make grilled cheese, so he won’t be alone or starve. He does laundry and homework without reminders and hugs his grandmothers unprompted. Having a much-older sibling with a much different personality has taught Henry to offer grace easily and often, the trait I most want him to share with the world.

In late August, I plan to settle in the passenger seat as he drives his car north to college, while my husband follows solo in our car. I hope our trip to the University of Delaware includes singing along to his playlist, something we do in drive-throughs and did across the Southwest. During this far-briefer road trip, I won’t care about the scenery whooshing by. I will keep my focus on the man he is, not the boy he was.

Henry, of course, is only looking forward. When he looks back, I want him not to wonder where the time went. I want him to stand on the edge and see the majesty of what he forged. (That and to return my texts promptly.)

Sarah Achenbach, the communications director for Kalix Marketing Group, is co-author of “Spirit of Place/Baltimore’s Favorite Spaces, author of “A Century of Spirit: Garrison Forest School, 1910-2010,” and author, “Fifty Years of Lasting Impact: The Baltimore Community Foundation” (Baltimore Creative Studio).  Her email is [email protected].

Read More 

About Post Author

Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %