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By Shelley Murphy
My 2019 calendar is dotted with dates circled in red ink and chronicles upcoming milestone celebrations.
Soon, my youngest son will graduate from college and commemorate his achievement by embarking on his first trip to Europe. My husband will celebrate a big birthday, and we’re marking the occasion with a family golf getaway. My oldest son will observe his quarter-century birthday.
Along with these landmark occasions, I’m also adding lunch dates to my calendar. I’m reconnecting with girlfriends I lost touch with during the holiday hustle.
A couple of weeks ago, one of those girlfriends and I met to catch up over lunch. Our conversation quickly turned toward family and then my older son; that’s when she leaned across the table and whispered, “Is he engaged?”
I gripped the sides of our table and said, “Not to my knowledge.”
My heart raced. My girlfriend maintains a strong social media presence and knows I shun online networking sites.
She’s the one who called me years ago after reading an online post made by my older son. At the time, he was a junior in high school preparing for fall’s annual homecoming festivities.
She told me that my son’s post challenged the senior students to steal the junior class homecoming float from the safety of our garage.
My son’s taunting texts provoked the seniors who, in the dark of night, thundered through our neighborhood searching for the junior float. This led to the legendary Float Wars of 2011, a story for the ages—and another time.
So, when my girlfriend speaks, I listen.
She explained that her question came after viewing photos my son posted while visiting his girlfriend, who’s working overseas.
My son texted me those same photos; I saw a happy couple on a fun vacation, not photos announcing an engagement.
As a rule, I try to avoid speculation about the potential future of my sons’ relationships. I prefer to skip conversations that will end sooner or later with someone saying to me, “A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”
Before my newborn and I left the hospital 25 years ago, a smug “girl mom” reminded me of the fate awaiting a “boy mom.”
My girlfriend’s startling question did, however, cause me to stop and contemplate the “M” word: motherhood.
My favorite occupation is mom. The great benefits outweigh the long hours. The job is ever-evolving, but the goal remains unchanged: nurture kids into independent and thriving adults.
The job’s downside is that just as the hard work starts to pay off, a pink slip appears—and instead of a gold watch, the reward is an empty nest.
I get it: my son’s grown and flown, and this is how it’s supposed to work. And I’m happy (mostly) to move aside if, or when, he gets down on bent knee.
But it still stings.
Twenty five years is a long time. Together, my son and I have weathered some of his lowest lows (the agony of a dream school rejection) and celebrated some of his highest highs (the thrill of landing a dream job).
If he drops to bended knee, I’ll lose my spot as number one and drop to number two.
I’ll see him in a new suit, but he won’t run it by me before buying it.
I’ll get the phone call with exciting news, but I won’t be the first one he calls.
I’ll get asked my opinion, but it won’t count as much as it once did.
Then, number two will become my permanent position. And I know that’s the way it should be.
I also know, a mother is a mother all of her life. He will always be my son and, likely someday, someone’s husband.
But, until that momentous milestone creeps onto my calendar, I’ll savor my time at the top.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.