Is There a Map for Raising Kids?

My ten-year-old son plays the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack every single morning on our way to school. If you aren’t a Broadway fan and don’t know the story, it is a story of finding hope in the wake of teenage suicide, and the songs are funny, and sad, and real.  The first time I heard the song “Does Anybody Have a Map,” I laugh-cried like a fool.

Does anybody have a map? Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell. But this is me just pretending to know. So where’s the map? I need a clue. ‘Cause the scary truth is I’m flying blind. And I’m making this up as I go.”

Yes, that is my song, baby.

Four of my five children will be graduating this year – two from college, two from high school. They are beautiful, brilliant young adults who are chasing their dreams in spite of me, and I hope a little bit because of me.

I became a mom at twenty-two years old. When you are twenty-two, you know everything.  I read every What to Expect… book available and was totally sure I had parenting in the bag. I was a go-getter who accomplished whatever I set my mind to in life. I was a winner.

Cue the laughter. Come on – I deserve it.

This is a list of what parenting was really like for me:

Retching while catching kid vomit in my hands

Crying from depression and anxiety brought on by sleepless nights

Freaking out that my kids might do drugs and alcohol

Reminding a son to breathe while on morphine after a freak sports accident

Worrying for years that he may lose his leg

Driving up to the scene of an accident, to the sight of a son alive, standing next to his shattered glass around his flipped car

Nagging and slamming doors with my teenage daughter

Guilt-tripping my oldest son because he got a tattoo

Hoping my youngest son wouldn’t stop breathing on the way to the hospital after eating peanut butter

But there is also the good stuff:

Loving on my sick kids when they needed me

Sleeping next to the kids when they woke up from nightmares

Openly conversing with my kids about drugs and alcohol use

Rejoicing at the news that the leg will be okay

Appreciating that my son’s car was gone but he was still with us

Loving time spent with my adult daughter

Smiling that my son’s tattoo symbolizes his love for his father and me (and that he promises not to do it again).

Thanking the stars that food allergies didn’t take my son away

In a few weeks, we will host a party to celebrate their graduations. One now works in finance, one will take a management job at a snazzy hotel, one move on to major in theater at NYU, and one will move on to major in economics at Georgia State. I will serve food and chat with party guests, but my eyes will be on those four, because they are the most beautiful kids- no, young adults-  in the world.

I had no map for raising five kids. I’m sure I have screwed them up, but I have loved them to tears. Now I still have eight years left with my youngest to do the same to him.

He and I have eight years to blast Broadway tunes in the car together, and I get to guilt-trip him and nag him about homework. I still don’t know how the hell to do this, but I do know that he will turn out okay despite me.  And I hope, also because of me.

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