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Finally, A Place Where “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Thrives

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This past Saturday I joined the ranks of women worldwide whose last (in my case only) child graduated from high school. 

It crept up on me, slowly and steadily, day by day, month by month, school year by school year. Clumsily created “I Love You Mom” handprints in concrete led to mnemonic learning aids for spelling conSTELLAtion (think Marlon Brando), led to middle school heartbreak, that careened into AP classes and college applications. I can now fondly reminisce about the horrors of fourth grade math. 

I can see and feel the subtlety with how each passing phase leads to their eventual exit.”

The trappings of motherhood are many. Lunch packing, chauffeuring, vomit cleaning, managing the nuance between nagging (to make sure assignments are completed and TURNED IN) and allowing our kid to fail… the list is endless.

Upon reflection, I can see and feel the subtlety with how each passing phase leads to their eventual exit. In hindsight, it makes sense how life almost imperceptibly prepares us for their absence. 

Some Changes Not So Subtle:

Not all of the changes are subtle, however. I remember the gut punch realization the day my son got his full drivers license. Watching him drive away in the car that day, understanding that he was taking with him countless hours of shuttling him to play dates, after school events, his favorite sandwich shop for his treasured turkey on sourdough sandwich. Untold hours of him sitting in the passenger seat, forgetting for a minute who I was, regaling me with random thoughts and stories about his life. Yeah, that transition was not so benign.

On so many levels, the jury is out on the long-term effects of the pandemic. I find it true for me as well when it comes to how it impacted my relationship with my son. The typical progression towards independence was set on end for most of us between March 2020 and May 2021. Motherhood was redefined for many of us.   

For some there was the return of, once independent, adult children. I am sure figuring out that new normal was anything but understated. For me it created a black hole in the natural progression of independence assertion – a reprieve from the distancing. I know I got to enjoy the company of my son in a way not really “intended”. For that, I am grateful.

It Wasn’t Me, I Swear:

Everything comes to an end. Everything.”

No, I did NOT cause the pandemic as some twisted demonic scheme to spend more time with him. I promise.

Everything comes to an end. Everything. And this past Saturday marked the end of an era. I’ve spent time processing the true impact of that graduation ceremony. As he strode across the  long, makeshift wooden-planked stage on the gymnasium floor, I envisioned him walking out of my life.

And just like that, the very next day he packed a bag and headed off into the world on new adventures with his peers. He and his friends spent many hours during the pandemic planning a nine day road trip. What I agreed to, a year ago, was ethereal, fantastical, like those non-real-monsters under the bed. Yet, there I was waving goodbye as the very real monster of independence drove away with my baby.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Thrives:

I’ve written before about my son’s emotional IQ. It’s pretty high, I have no doubt. Throughout high school I occasionally used the “Find My Phone” feature to check-in during long absences or late nights out. We never discussed it openly or verbally agreed to the setup. Remember Clinton’s “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” directive? But he knew and understood that this crutch alleviated my need to know he is alive 

In a Barack Obama move, Aidan suggested I track his phone throughout the trip. I know, it’s hard to determine if this is a mature, loving gift to Mom OR I’m too lazy to be bothered to text/call you to check in. Either way, who cares? 

Now, if YOU’RE wondering: how often I pull up my Find My Phone app… Well…. “Don’t Ask.”


10 thoughts on “Finally, A Place Where “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Thrives

  1. angie says:

    I never thought of tracking my son’s phone, what a splendid idea! When he travelled through Vhina short before the pandemic it would have saved me from sleepless nights. Next big trip I’ll be sure to ask him if I can put a tracker on him:)

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      Kuel Life says:

      It’s also just fun… to live vicariously through their travels. My friend and I track one another all the time when we travel. It’s fun to “discover” where the other one is.

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      Kuel Life says:

      So true… I remember when he was little and going through something… by the time I would research it and figure it out; he was ready to move on to the NEXT phase….

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      Kuel Life says:

      Did I go on those trips…Ha Ha… Of course, not. But, I am so glad that he has the opportunity to do so. It is a great learning experience. I remember having to stop at a pay phone (remember those?) to call home to let them know I was still alive. xoxox

  2. jess says:

    First, congrats to your son on his graduation. I am not a parent ( only to pups) but my sister has 3 kids. Her 3rd was a surprise and is 10 at the moment. I know it was emotional to see those phases in her other sons and my niece growing up and going into 6th grade.

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      Kuel Life says:

      Thanks you!
      Each phase is an incredible gift. It’s wonderful that you get to participate in your nephews and niece’s life that way. What a treat!

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