Five yearsWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve kept a running mantra since my son was born: I only have five years — five years to be everything to him. I’ve kept it close in mind during the good times and the bad. The four months of colic made me wonder if five years would ever come. Each birthday made me wonder where another year had gone. And still it stood, my five-year rule. Five years of putting aside my own interests and goals and opportunities to eat a hot meal or do any sort bathroom activity solo seemed like a small gift to give someone during the five most important years of their life. After all, years 27 to 32 can’t hold a candle to years zero to five.
My mantra became quite familiar to me as I used it as an emergency brake on the high hills, sharp twists and deep dips of the motherhood roller coaster. Whether it was the first step, the first day of preschool, or the third trip to the emergency room, my little motto reminded me that the moment — magnificent, momentous or miserable — would not last forever. In fact, my mantra became almost too familiar, like a word that loses meaning when repeated one too many times. It became a nudge to keep going, not a warning that the five years would, in all actuality, one day pass us by.
And then on a day not too long ago it happened; our five years had passed us by … seemingly unnoticed. The exact five-year mark flew by me without any sort of realization. With the hustle and bustle of the birthday party and the preschool graduation, I had simply forgotten to realize that this was it. This was what I had been working for, dreading, and attempting to accept for the last five years.
It is true that I am not putting my son on a raft and setting him adrift on the wide-open seas to fend for himself, although at times it feels that way. I will still be here day in and day out to encourage, comfort and protect. Gone, however, will be the 24/7/365 mom and dad education and entertainment show of the past. Most days of each of his weeks will now include guidance from someone else, somewhere else. His world is moving beyond the boundaries of our happy little home.
There is a part of me that sneaks out once in awhile and thinks, “Nope, I can’t do it. This kid is mine and I’m just going to lock the door and keep him here with me forever. He can be Peter Pan and I can be the crazy lady who locks her kids away. I don’t care. End of story. We all live happily ever after locked away in our happy little house.”
The sane part of my brain, of course, tells me that it is my turn to be the brave and loving parent my parents were for me. It is my turn to let the world give my son the things I do not have the means to give him. I cannot hand him the disappointments he needs to learn strength, offer him the challenges he needs to learn persistence, or provide him the achievement opportunities he needs to learn success. Hopefully, what I have given and will continue to give him is the capacity to take life’s lessons from the big, bad, wonderful world and recognize, accept and utilize their value.
When our son gets off that bus each day, his sister and I will be waiting for him at the door. She and I are quickly closing out year three of our five-year lease.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising two children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.