writer, listener

Go. Do. Be.

on May 30, 2013

I became a mother very young. Too young. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I wanted to be a certain kind of mother. One who raises her son to become an independent man and not a grown child who exists to fill holes in her own life. In all my immaturity, I feel like I had a decent handle on that, if nothing else. And that’s pretty good, considering it was well before Teen Mom Tragedy TV was here, which would have been a great source for What Not To Do.


By independent “man” I don’t mean the alpha lumberjack football coach type. Jesus, I was afraid to even let him play with toys I didn’t feel were gender-neutral enough (whatever that means). I just mean that I wanted him to be happy and emotionally self-reliant. I didn’t want to raise a mama’s boy. I figured I owed him that, at least, since he didn’t have a choice in being born to a broke teenager. If nothing else, I could help make sure he’d be a competent adult someday.


I tried not to smother or hover (sometimes I failed). I tried not to make him feel responsible for my feelings or to monopolize his time, especially during his tween and teen years. I wanted him to go do stuff and learn lessons the hard way and figure out what kind of person he wants to be in his real life outside his role as my first-born.

And as it happens, he’s all the things I hoped he’d “at least” be and so much more. He’s also smart and dashing and has a big heart and incredible humility and work ethic. And a whole bunch of other things I feel lucky to have in a child, but don’t feel at all responsible for. Genuinely, I don’t. He is who he decided to be.


Except here’s the thing. All those feelings about maintaining  a healthy respect for his personhood and yada-yada-yada  have evaporated in the last day or two and I’m kind of scared of myself. I’m losing it a little. I’ll get it back, I know that. But I feel blindsided, which is weird because I’ve very actively prepared for this.

I never pretended this wasn’t coming or that it would be easy. I practiced a lot of positive self-talk. Like, “It’s going to be really hard because you’ve never been without him in your entire adult life. It’s not about you, though, so whatever you do, just keep your shit together.”

I was ready. He’s moving to the mainland and going to college, then if all goes well, he’ll  find work that means something to him and a family of his own that means everything to him. It’s good. It’s great. He’s going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. We’re all going to be fine. Nobody panic. Everybody breathe, mostly me. Because my kid? He’s breathing fine. He’s the calm, self-assured guy I hoped he’d be.

And just think, I only have to do this two more times, with my only daughter and my last baby.

I’m so not going to make it.

Yes I am.

For sure.


19 responses to “Go. Do. Be.

  1. I’m crying with you! It’s such a cliche, but they really do grow up too fast. On a personal note, and I highly doubt you will remember this, but 18 years ago this August, Greg & I ran into you pushing your son in a stroller while we were roller-blading on the rail-trail in Bay City… it was our first date. And it does not feel like it was *that* long ago.

    Hang in… and enjoy a cocktail. You deserve it, Momma!

    • elaineembrey says:

      Letting a child go is difficult. Letting a child make his/her own mistakes isn’t easy. However, once children leave to go to college, it will never be the same. When they come home for a weekend, you can’t give them strict curfews because they do not have curfews in college. You have to learn to not only trust them but trust that your job of parenting will help them make good decisions. I think that your son will be just fine.

    • Thanks, Kelli! And actually, I do remember that! I remember thinking it was cool seeing two people I knew from different parts of my life, together.

  2. Roberta Markow says:


    Roberta Markow

    1415 Petronia Street

    Key West, FL 33040




  3. Marie says:

    Oh, you are a couple of years ahead of us–our oldest son turns 17 this summer and will be a junior next year. I feel for you! Time is going by SOOO fast. Thinking of you–you will be okay, and you will take great job in continuing to see him blossom!

  4. Kimmy says:

    Beautiful post Rhonda! I am going through this for the third time ~ and it has not gotten any easier each time. Actually #3 is most difficult so far for Kevin because it’s our first baby girl. Wish we could have them for a little longer!

  5. Lori Adams says:

    Everyone says, “enjoy them, it goes by so fast” but many days I’m just looking forward to bedtime. I love them but raising kids is hard. And exhausting. And frustrating. And sometimes just plain terrifying. I want them to be good, kind people. I don’t care that Luke loves sports but isn’t terribly talented. He’s smart and sweet and kind. I don’t care that Sydney isn’t that sweet quiet little girl that will leave bows in her hair and wear the dresses I pick out for her. She’s strong and independent and scrappy. I do care that everything I do and say shapes them into the adults they will be and I’m not perfect. Not even close. I just want them to be better than me. I hope that I can look back and feel as you do. That I did okay and my kid turned out great. I hope I’m not too hard on myself for wishing some days away. And I hope I can let them leave the nest without holding onto their leg…..for too long. Congratulations on raising your son while all your friends were going to parties. You obviously did an outstanding job!!! Be proud and take a minute to pat yourself on the back.

    • Yes! I’ve had way more WTF AM I DOING days than not. Everybody does. If there was a definitive right way to do things, I guess we’d all be doing it by now. It’s a bunch of guess work and hoping for the best. And there’s so much that’s completely out of our control.

      Thanks, Lori, and maybe we should try to catch up this summer. I head your way at least once every time I’m in MI. My not-so-secret plan is to have a Leelanau area cabin someday, you know.

  6. Theresa says:

    A new life chapter for you cousin;) Chin up, as a mother you will always play a role in
    his developmental journeys…And yes you need to take credit for a chapter well done and many more to come! Love You xo

  7. Rick Boettger says:

    The thread of comments is almost as good as the article.

    Mothers are amazing. I am crying now to remember my own, and how she must have felt as you do now. I was her first-born boy, and went far away to college. Rhonda, know your son will miss you forever, and ever hold you living in his heart.

  8. Lori says:

    Stumbled on this piece. I see this was written a year ago and I wonder how you feel today? I was having this same self discussion last year when you wrote this. A year later, my heart is still very tender to the thought of what has passed through my arms. The irony is that the thing that fills me up (watching my son walk in his own direction) is the very same thing that emptied me. Life is strange. Best thoughts to you.

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