One morning last week, my 21-year-old son came into the kitchen and asked if I’d help him make a cup of coffee.
Now, if any of you own one of those newfangled Keurig machines, like the one I have, you know that it’s fairly simple to operate. You open the doohickey and stick the plastic K-cup filled with the coffee into the chamber, select the size cup you’d like and press “Brew.” That’s about it.
But he’s my first baby. He’s the one who benefitted from having a super-young and enthusiastic mommy who was more than happy to lay out his clothes each night for the next day, trim his sandwich crusts and peel his thinly-sliced apples.
Nowadays, I am hard pressed to even buy an apple, much less peel it.
So I suppressed my urge to laugh when he asked for help with the coffee, but when he proceeded to sit down and start to look at his iPhone, I realized he didn’t really want help trying to figure out how to make coffee. He just wanted me to make it for him.
“Okay,” I told him, “you need to walk over to the machine and open it up.”
I walked him through the whole process and, like magic, he was enjoying a hot cup of joe in no time.
A little while later, his 11-year-old brother came into the kitchen and made himself an omelette.
He got out the pan and heated it over a low flame, cracked an egg into a bowl and added a little extra egg whites from a container in the fridge, sprayed the pan with Pam and cooked up his breakfast. He doused the entire thing in Frank’s Hot Sauce and sat and watched Drake and Josh and enjoyed his eggs with some hot chocolate he made in the Keurig.
The differences between the first and fourth child never gets old to me. It always amazes me to see how much the younger child has benefitted from neglect. And how much all my hovering stymied my oldest kid’s ability to want to do things for himself, which is very different than being actually able to do things for himself. He’s more than capable.
In fact, he showed me that today when I dropped him off to catch the bus that would take him an hour north to start a summer internship. It’s the kind of gig that requires business-casual attire and behaving like a grown up and when he came into the kitchen for breakfast before we left for the bus, it took my breath away to see an adult standing there at the counter pouring a bowl of Reese’s Puffs.
This is not to say that there wasn’t a fair amount of hand holding going on in the week leading up to his first day at work. We went out and bought some big boy clothes, bought his monthly bus pass and did a test run to check out a big commuter lot where he could park all day for free. Reading the bus schedule also proved to be slightly challenging but then again, what does he know? He’s never had to do anything like this before. The younger kids have benefitted their whole lives from their oldest brother’s firsts — from learning to play an instrument to getting into college — he’s paved the way and showed them how things are done.
So, it was weird watching him get out of my car this morning and make his way over to the throng of people waiting to board the commuter bus. A part of me wanted to get out and make sure he was getting on the right one, but I resisted the urge and drove away, watching the back of his new jacket slowly recede in my rearview mirror.
He texted me later to tell me he was on the bus and on his way (thumbs-up emoji). “Thank u for ride and everything else mom (lovey and heart emojis),” he wrote. And I knew he really meant that. The two of us may often bump heads, but he knows at the end of the day, I’ve got his back.
I know there’s a fine line between being a helicopter parent and simply helping a brother out. I hope I’m doing the latter. And I know that by the time the little guy heads off into the real world 10 years from now, there will probably be less hand holding involved because he’ll have watched his three older siblings go through that rite of passage.
But I’m getting ahead of myself because after this morning, I’m glad I still am the proud owner of a little boy. Someone who will still just wrap his arms around my waist and squeeze for no reason, sing Maroon 5 at the top of his lungs in the shower and occasionally forgets to use shampoo.
Because it goes fast, people. In the blink of an eye you go from handing your kid a Gatorade to a commuter mug, and I know people say that kind of stuff all the time and when you’re in the thick of carpooling and chicken nuggets, it just seems like it’s never going to end and then some of it does start to wind down and you’re like, “What the fuck?”
You can’t win.
All I know is that I’m looking forward to picking him up from the bus later and hearing about his day over the dinner I’ll make tonight to celebrate his big day. Because he may have graduated from skater duds to khakis and a dress shirt, but he’s still my baby.