I’ve learned that we never stop growing up, but I have a son who I keep thinking is all grown up.
Or, so it seems to me.
Or, so it seems to me.
I guess I think he is all grown up because it’s hard for me to find anything that I can still do for him or that he needs me still to do. As a young adult, he lives on his own in another city and has a job and supports himself.
When he was little, I’d pack his lunch, hold his hand, buy his clothes, play endless catch, sit on the sporting sidelines, keep him dry in the rain, and tuck him in at night.
Now, he does all that and more on his own, and I’m certainly not the one tucking him in at night.
When he was born, I felt an immediate kinship, as if on the inside, he was me and I was him, a symbiosis from day one. And it’s like he knew this, too. As a baby, I would hold him and pat his back, and his little hand would pat my back right back as if to say, I know, Ma.
As a single mom raising this boy, I learned so much about myself. I found myself in this boy who would color and draw and then oil his baseball glove and break it in each night under his mattress; who would lay his head on my shoulder and then put on his hockey gear and skates; who would tell me he loved me but make me promise to lay low on the soccer sidelines; who would give me play-by-plays of tennis matches but ask me to wait in the car at practice; who would blast his music but still listen to mine.
As he grew up, I had to learn how to make space to respect his, so we could remain simpatico, so I could still come along for the ride that is his life.
It did not surprise me that soon after I took up yoga, he did, too. First, in college, to fulfill some credits, and then more so as he started to work.
And now, when I visit him or he comes home, it’s what we do.
The other day, we placed our mats alongside each other to practice at a new studio. Here, the instructor blasted the music at an extra high volume each time we held a pose or worked a handstand. And each time, it would be one of my favorite tunes from way back when, and my son would look over at me and grin and nod, I know, Ma.
And even though he is what I consider all grown up, he doesn’t mind my reaching out to pat him in the middle of the practice and, sometimes, he even pats me right back.
We do yoga. We get juice. We go to lunch. We even shop. He holds my hand as he walks me around the city from here to there throughout the day. And, later, I hear from his sister that he loves when I visit, because he says I can just fold right into whatever it is they do.
And I’m grateful for this. For the closeness and for the space that makes for it.
And I am surprised to see myself again now, in this grown up young man. We have pictures from these recent days, when I can see myself in him. I am somehow appearing in this young man who looks like his dad and his uncle, and not just in pictures but in how we think and in what we say, sometimes in the same words and at the same time.
And when our practice is over, we sit up and, together, we say Namaste. And I am filled up with such gratefulness to have practiced with my boy, feeling so blessed that he is there, that I am still able to pat his back and get one back.
The next day, he invites me to an appointment. We are to meet there, but it’s raining, and he texts me that he’ll pick me up with the umbrella, and I realize that this day, he’s the one keeping me dry in the rain.
Before this trip, my son was home for a visit. He was looking around at several things from years past and said that some of it made him feel bad. As with everyone who grows up, there are things left behind that would rather be forgotten. I know this is true of me; how can it not be true for him?
In yoga, one of the things we are taught is that it’s okay to let go, that we don’t have to hang onto everything that brought us to where we are now.
So I make a promise that on his next trip home, we will purge the old stuff and lighten the load.
It made me think back to the end of a practice, months earlier. I had turned my mat to the wall, facing a new direction by the end of class. It was hot. I was wrung out. The practice had done its magic before the instructor added some of his own.
Letting go is not a loss, the instructor said, his words like a wand sweeping across the room. I felt him grant me the same permission I wanted to grant my son.
This winter, my son went snowboarding, an annual activity that kind of scares me. On some such trips, I ask him to please just send a signal that he’s breathing. I figure that makes for space because I don’t need a phone call; instead, just a short text will do.
This time, the message reads: Alive and well and it comes with a picture. He is in a headstand atop a snowy mountain, sending a signal loud and clear.
He might as well have just sent the words, I know, Ma.