Sunday, March 8, 2009

I Can Breathe Again

For two long weeks my first born son had a blast in Brazil. We have family friends who live in Sao Paulo and now that we all have teens we've started trading them back and forth whenever possible. It's a great opportunity for our kids to see another culture.

Michael did more in two weeks than some people do in a lifetime of vacations. He saw how Brazilian people operate in their everyday lives. Then he spent a week with them on vacation, flying to a lush island where they water skied, biked long trails and rode horses on the beach. We heard from him every now and then, but mainly we left him alone so he could soak it all in.

But that's not to say we didn’t miss him. Desperately miss him.

You'd think having just one less kid, when you normally have four, wouldn't be that big of a deal. Even though Michael was gone, we continued to have the regular stream of friends come through the door and the house was rarely quiet. Let's just say my grocery bill never dipped. The house was full. There were plenty of teen age kids around. But four minus one never equals plenty. I missed that kid. That one personality, that specific smile.

So when he came home last night I finally relaxed. It was touch and go for a bit, as he flew in right as a snow storm was slamming New York City. But in a twelve hour effort, Jeff got down there, found our boy, and they both arrived safely home in time for dinner. All six of us around the dinner table once again. Heaven.

There was an excitement in the air for the rest of the evening. He was happy to be home and we were thrilled to have him back. I began to wonder if this is close to what it feels like to have a child go off to college and then come home to visit. His presence was so missed and he filled it completely the moment he walked back in the door. As he wrestled with Sam, throwing him over his shoulder and tickling him until he squealed, my heart spilled over with contentment.

When they were all toddlers I feared the teen years. You can almost say I dreaded the teen years. I loved the control we had when they were always under our thumb. It was easier when they didn't climb into cars driven by teenage friends and I didn't have to wonder if they had eaten a single vegetable in the past 24 hours. I didn't lay awake at night wondering if they were finding the right path and if the next few years would involve hauling boxes of their things out of my house and into a tiny apartment or dorm room.

Time seemed to go slowly when they were little people and none of us seemed to ever sleep three nights in a row. Now time is screaming by and vegetables or not, they are gaining height and maturity faster than I can comprehend. It is not fear or dread I have found in their teen years. It is yearning and longing. Wishing that it all would slow down just a bit, for just a while.

Even before they fly off to their dreams after high school, they are taking little practice flights. Two weeks here. One week there. The independence just makes them feel more grown up and upon their return causes them to walk back in my kitchen door just another notch farther away from me. It's a good thing, right? Good that they can make this transition so easily. So why does it hurt my heart so much?

I knew I had missed Michael when he was in Brazil. But I guess I didn't realize just how much. Then suddenly he was back and all was instantly right with the universe again. The heaviness I had carried around for two weeks while he was gone suddenly evaporated. Our family feels whole. At least for now. So I won't think about how soon his sister will be done with high school and how soon after that he will follow his dreams that take him out of my house full time. Because for now I am content. I am at peace. All my chickens are back in the nest. And finally, finally I can breathe again.

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