That summer I came to refer to as “The Summer After 16” and it was a hint of things to come now that he heads to college next month. This essay was originally published on Moms of Tweens and Teens last year.
I hope that any parent watching a teen grow up can smile and relate to this one–and perhaps grab a tissue!
I remember those sleepless nights when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy. How I could not get comfortable no matter which way I turned my big belly.
“It’s preparing you for when the baby comes,” the wise mothers who had gone before me said. “You’re learning how to function on less sleep so you’ll be more accustomed to it after you have the baby,” touted the pregnancy books.
I never fully embraced this thinking, though. I’m not sure that getting less sleep made me anything other than cranky.
But my experience during the third trimester seems relevant now that I’m in the summer after my teen turned 16. Because I feel that somehow this summer is preparing me for what comes next in my motherhood journey. For when my son becomes a man.
The summer after 16 is what I call that first batch of long, free-from-school days after a teen turns 16. It is different than the summers before because with age 16 comes the ability to drive–and drive away.
When I see my teen in a car, driving away from me, I think maybe it’s preparing me for the day he drives away to his new life and won’t be coming back to his old one with me, his dad, and his sister.
The summer after 16 means sometimes he gets into a friend’s car and they drive away. It means I pray every time he leaves the driveway.
He hangs out with his friends more often during the summer after 16. He does not hang out with me and his little sister so much. That’s the way it should be, but I can’t help missing those times in summers past when he happily went on a bike ride or spent the day at the lake with us. I know my daughter misses him, too.
A New Job
The summer after 16 brings a new job. When he leaves for his job, I see him becoming a person who operates independently from me. He drives there himself. He puts gas in the car, using the money he earns from the job. I’m surprised by how this makes me feel: relieved that I don’t have to drive him everywhere and yet sad that I don’t have to drive him everywhere.
The summer after 16 means he sleeps in. And in and in. Get up, I think. Wake up, I urge. I want to see you, talk to you or spend time with you in the same room even if we are just both sitting on the couch, eating breakfast, and checking our phones.
And when he wakes up at noon? How is it possible that he looks bigger than just yesterday, that he grew more overnight. He is changing physically before my eyes during the summer after 16.
The summer after 16 is going by too fast. There are hours spent at his summer job. Time spent sleeping in and then going out with his friends. All of these are moments that I am not with him.
The Summer After 16
The summer after 16, I realize with growing awareness, does have something in common with that last trimester of pregnancy. It is preparing me for the summers to come when he will be a grown man, not my little man.
So this summer I will let him drive away, happy that at least he will come back later. I will savor when he comes home from work, knowing that soon enough he’ll come home to his own house, not mine. I will treasure that I know the friends he hangs out with, as one day I may not know who they are.
I will enjoy each moment of the summer after 16, knowing that I am lucky enough to be the one he calls Mom during this season, each and every day.