By Shelley Murphy
Two weeks from today, my youngest son will turn 20 years old. You took your time entering the world, arriving two weeks late, causing me to constantly keep an eye on the clock and calendar.
And, on your birthday, I still watch the clock. As the time turns toward midnight, I remember the moment during Saturday Night Live when my water broke. I carefully wedged myself into the car, and we inched along a busy Pacific Coast Highway to the hospital.
After approximately 15 hours of labor, at around four o’clock in the afternoon, as Vin Scully announced the televised Dodgers’ game, my doctor announced your arrival and handed me my swaddled son. From that second forward, I’ve loved you every minute of every day.
As I celebrate your birthday marking two decades, I also pine for birthdays from the past. Long gone are the over-the-top themed birthday parties with goodie bags reflecting the current cartoon or movie that captured your imagination. Gone too are the mornings when I’d wake you from sleeping by shouting, “Happy Birthday,” as you pulled your pillow over your head.
Reflecting on your transition from teen to 20-something, I wonder if I prepared you well enough to face the challenges of adulthood. The past two decades flew by too fast. As you turn 20, my motherly gut instinct is still to protect you. I hope we discussed the following 10 topics, but either way it bears repeating.
- Life is short, so experience as much as you can. (Well, within reason and to the letter of the law, and except permanent piercings and tattoos—unless you must, then wait ’til your late 20s when your brain is fully developed).
- Remember to say, “No.” There’s a distinction between being a doormat and heartless. Your true friends with whom you share solid friendships will respect you.
- Women are complicated. A female landmine requires complex navigation, but remembering to be a gentleman and to treat us with respect helps minimize explosions.
- Text me back, even if you don’t read the rambling texts I’m ridiculed for. Remember, it may be many years before you can afford your own hotel room on a sandy beach. Also, it makes my day to see my screen light up with your name.
- Life is full of disappointment. Accept it. How you handle life’s disappointments shapes and defines your character. Think before reacting, quick responses can carry far-reaching repercussions. Better yet, call me; I’m always available to help pick up the pieces.
- Hang on to your brother. Sure, you’re both busy with your lives but he’s the only sibling you’ve got. You two share a childhood and bond; someday you’ll value its importance. He’s also the only one who shares your similar annoyances with me and takes the same amount of joy in mocking me for my constant texts (see No. 4).
- Boxer briefs do not last forever—holes are not a fashion statement.
- Know that raising a child does take a village. Teachers and others in our Spanish Village by the Sea, and beyond, helped you get where you are today—remember and show gratitude to them and future mentors.
- Binge drinking and falling down drunk are never attractive. Be smart: Just don’t do it.
- Forgive me when I text “Live Ya” instead of “Love Ya” and realize it’s kinda the same thing (see No. 4).
This birthday is a big one for both of us. I’m no longer the parent of teenagers—a job I held longer than any other. But I’ll always be your mom; there’s no finish line in the parenting marathon.
Embrace your 20s; you’ll soon realize it’s a time for dreaming, defining and discovering yourself.
You’re about to experience untold uncertainties as you cross the threshold from your teens to 20s. But remember one thing is eternally certain, no matter your age: I love you forever and always. Now, go celebrate (but see No. 9).
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 17 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the SC Times since 2006.