Car Shopping for My Son, and Other Existential Crises

Today we will go see another car as we continue the search for an appropriate vehicle for our 17 year old son.

Allow me just a minute to deconstruct the parts of the sentence that are killing me:

  • my son is 17
  • he is getting his own car

You may note some slight anxiety in my all-caps tone. If you know me well, you may even recognize that I could possibly be approaching a full scale panic.

Because it’s all happening too fast.

I already feel like I am counting days til he leaves us and my heart is breaking.

First the license. Then the college visits began. Then the SATs. Now the buying of the car, with more college visits on the horizon. National Honor Society induction. Junior year finals approaching. Senior pictures about to be taken.

This kid. This no-longer-a-boy. This young man.

Cooper Blanchette

He makes me so proud every day. He annoys the crap out of me. He makes me laugh. He misses the bus sometimes and I am secretly so happy when he does because I get another chance to chat with him, one on one, as we drive the 15-20 minutes to school. We have great conversations.

Also secretly, I will miss the chance to have these conversations once he does have his own car.

And not so secretly, I will desperately miss him when he goes off to college. What will our lives be like when he is not here every day? What will it be like when I don’t have to scream his name up the stairs because he is playing video games with his noise-cancelling headphones on? What will it be like when I get home from my morning workout and he is not there in kitchen drinking a protein shake or eating a Clif bar while I drink my coffee before he goes to catch the bus?

Some of these moments are precious and some of them…uh, less so…but I will miss all of them when he goes.

And yet, he will go. And he will continue to make me proud every day. And annoy me. And make me laugh.

I will text him every day and want to know what’s going on with his life as I will no longer be privy to the day to day details. Hopefully he’ll answer often.

Hopefully he’ll come home sometimes and still sit on the couch with us and watch our favorite shows. Hopefully he’ll still want to play some Yahtzee or Scattergories with us when he is home.

I can only watch and wait and sometimes cry as I anticipate him going, hoping with futility that time will slow down during the next year-and-a-couple-of-months.

But I am confident that I’ve done my job. I’ve prepared him to go out into the world and be a good person, and his core personality of kindness, geniality, and sarcastic humor (once you know him well enough) will not change. He’ll develop some new habits and characteristics; he’ll make mistakes; he’ll try new things and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail.

And my heart will continue to break even as I cheer him on in his independence. This, for me, is the hardest part of parenting. You prepare them to say goodbye and go off on their own and you watch them go and they take a large part of your heart with them when they do.

That’s the job.

And so we car shop.








Memory #377

Note: The Memory Series is made up of entries that are my attempt to puzzle together so many disjointed and out of context memories and pieces of memories that float around in my brain. Most of these are memories I’ve always had, but even though I remembered these events, I never really examined or understood them. They are now critical memories to revisit as I work through my healing process. The numbers attached to each memory aren’t that important; they’re mostly random except for their order in my life. This is the first I wrote in the series.

This day, she was 14 or 15. This day, she was tired of the front. Of the cheerful, sociable exterior. It was exhausting to keep up and she was sick of it all.

Bitterness blossomed within her, sharp like acid, hollowing her out. She looked around her room, which was a disaster, strewn with clothes and cassette tapes and paper and dishes and books and a million other things. She felt so much wrong inside of her.

She smashed a picture in its frame. The shards of broken glass mingled with the rest of the rubble on her bedroom floor.

That girl, she picked up the biggest shard and held it in her hand. She caressed the flat side. It was smooth and shiny. She tapped her finger against the cruel point at one end, wondering what it would feel like.

She dragged the point across the inside of her arm, watching a trail of red bubble up in its wake. Interesting. It hurt, but not really.

I was that girl. I was that girl who spent the next hour and a half carving up both of her legs and arms. My legs. My arms.

That girl, that me, was so desperate to be relieved of her anger and her sadness. I wanted to release it, to bleed it out, a painful but satisfying purge.

I felt better, for awhile. And then, as always, I felt worse.

I went to cheerleading practice the next day, not even considering what my body would look like to everyone else until my friend looked over at me during stretches, just two minutes into practice.

“Jesus, Stephanie! What the hell happened to you?”

She was staring with horror at my legs, splayed out in a straddle.

I looked down and saw myself through her eyes. My bare legs, riddled with angry red scratches in random patterns. My arms, covered in just as many cuts.

I hesitated, trying to process this. This was new to me, not being ready. Not having my story straight. Not even having thought through how I would explain this away, not even thinking I would HAVE to explain this away.

I ALWAYS thought ahead. I ALWAYS had my story straight. I was good at it. It was what I did. How could I have gone so wrong this time?

Because today, this moment, I was at a loss for the briefest of instances. How could I have let this happen? How could I have been so careless? I was going to be revealed. This was it. I had failed.

After two beats, I stuttered out, “Oh, uh, yeah. We were walking through pricker bushes. Pretty dumb, right?”

She knew I was lying. I could tell she knew I was lying. Everyone knew I was lying because by that time most of the team and the coach were all listening and looking at me with doubtful faces.

Then the moment passed and everyone let me carry on with my charade. Just like that, they all accepted my obvious lie without further question or discussion.

I was elated: Thank God they left me alone about it! That was a close call.

I was outraged: How the hell could they leave me alone about it?!? I need help! Can’t they see I need help?