Sunday, March 29, 2009


Kevin is leaving tomorrow morning to go camping with the sixth grade class at his school. It's officially known as Outdoor Science School. He'll be gone all week, returning on Friday. And suddenly I feel reflective about him. It's not that he's never gone away before - he has. He's been away for plenty of weekends, and has gone away on week-long camping trips with his grandma, although it's been almost three years since the last time he did that. There's something about this trip that feels a bit more independent, that reminds me that he's growing up.

Kevin's a good kid. He's patient, loving, devoted and fiercely loyal to his siblings. He's compassionate in general. He's extremely bright and can be pretty funny. He's responsible. At 12, he's not openly interested in girls yet (although I suspect that he secretly is). In many ways, he seems much more innocent than I remember being at 12 (which I'm extremely glad about). He's horrified about drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking (although I'm not so naive to think that this might not change over the next couple of years). He gets on my case about using swear words (which I admittedly do way too much).

He also drives me crazy. He talks A LOT. He's one of those people who seems to not have an off-switch with the talking (in fact, this is something I worry about, how it is such a turn-off in adults, and since his father and grandfather were both compulsive talkers even as adults, I suspect this is hereditary and not likely something he will outgrow). He tries too hard to be funny a lot of the time, so it merely comes across as annoying. He craves the spotlight - he's never outgrown that "Look at me! Watch me!" thing.

He's also got the whole attitude thing going on. Snotty, huffy, stomping off to his room sort of thing. I love to torment him by telling him that his attitude has puberty written all over it.

Michael has sometimes said that Kevin and I remind him of an old married couple, the way we have this connection and the way we argue and bicker.

After Kevin was born, for a very long time I felt this deep, profound sadness at not having him inside me anymore. I loved having him close to me, safe and protected for those nine months, and when he was born, he suddenly became this separate person, and I missed the magical connection that pregnancy brings. He hung onto his umbilical cord stump for NINE weeks, I kid not. My mother-in-law at the time said that he didn't want to let go of his physical connection to me any more than I wanted to let go of my connection to him.

Kevin was two when his biological father, my first husband, died from a drug overdose, two weeks after I had filed for divorce at the end of a long, unhappy, unhealthy marriage. After he died, I got a tattoo of a butterfly. It meant several things to me: it was a sort of statement of independence, because I had wanted a tattoo for years and my husband always told me he'd leave me if I got one; it was a tribute to my own dad who had died shortly before my husband, and who also had a butterfly tattoo; and it symbolized the "metamorphosis" I was going through at that time in my life. Shortly afterwards, I returned to get another tattoo: a second, smaller butterfly, flying behind the first one. The second one represents Kevin. After all, we were going through a metamorphosis together. And now, almost ten years later, I still think of that time in our lives when I see those tattoos on my hip. And I wonder how much that period of time shaped me and shaped Kevin and shaped our relationship.

Our relationship does seem to be a bit different from my relationship with the other kids. But it's hard to pinpoint why. It could be because of everything he and I survived together in his early childhood. It could just be because he's my firstborn. It could be because he's quite a bit older than ther other kids, so naturally the dynamics of our relationship would be different. I'm sure it's a combination of all those factors.

And it's not that I favor him. I think - no, I know - that I'm harder on him than I am the other kids. Part of that is expecting more from him because he IS older. Part of it is that I have this very deep fear that I have to keep him in line so he doesn't turn out like his father. I see so many traits in him that mirror his father, and it scares the crap out of me.

It's interesting . . . I've realized for a long time how, as your children grow, it's a process of letting go of them, from the moment they're born. There was that first letting go by giving birth to him, then the losing of his umbilical cord stump . . . sending him to daycare when I returned to work . . . weaning . . . sending him to school . . . letting him go on sleepovers . . . and the list goes on. I've just begun to realize over the last year or so how much I've become an observer, a bit player, in Kevin's life. Not that I don't still play an important role, but all the time, he's growing more and more independent, and experiencing things that have nothing at all to do with me.

Which, I guess, is why this upcoming camping trip with the sixth grade feels so bittersweet to me. I know he's going to have a great time. I think he might come home a tiny bit more grown up, though, with memories and experiences behind him that are all his own. And I'm happy about that, I am . . . but just the tiniest bit sad too.

I'll miss him.


Leigh Anne said...

that made me tear up lisa! what a special guy kevin seems to be. i forever sit and think about the day that sydney will want to go to a sleepover and how my mom must've felt when i i understand. i guess this is what being a mom is all about...more than the physical being and more of an emotional state of mind!

Liz said...

What a wonderful post. Definitely one to print and save to share with him- when he goes off to college or gets married...

Maureen said...

Awww, that made me tear up too. I feel the same way about my Kevin. He's going on a class trip to Boston in May and I miss him already! I agree with the previous poster; this is definitely something to share with Kevin at some point in the future. The intense love you have for him permeates every word of your post.

Tricia said...

I agree with what Liz said. Great post!

Hector and Jennifer Varanini Sanchez said...

I'm crying too. Oh my gosh, what a sweet post. Please save this one for him. He is so blessed to have you and you him. Beautiful!