Remember when Zane turned 18? That was a relief. Remember when he turned 19? That was hard. Then he turned 20 and it felt very...manly. Well, today he is 21 and I bet you think I'm gonna talk about drinking. Nope.

(Zane's been drinking for a long time now, let's be real. If anything I'm relieved that he is now able to engage with all kinds of drinking, not just illegal, clandestine, risky, and most likely just straight up gross drinking)

No, today I am thinking, of course, about how the nature of my love for him has evolved over the course of his lifetime. Every one says that once you have a baby your understanding of what love is changes, and that's true for me like crazy. He was born and I fucking loved him like nothing else. For the first 4 or 5 years of his life my love was very biologically based and driven; his body and its safety were my primal and primary concern. Being nonverbal (for the first two years at least), our connection was not about the sharing of ideas or the richness of his innermost thoughts, it was about warmth and milk and softness - good lord how soft everything was in those first few years! The feathery, gravity-defying hairs on his head, his non-calloused feet and hands, the clothes he wore and the blankets he slept in.  I loved his bodily aliveness and would do anything to keep him that way. What hurt his body hurt all of me deeply. This is when I felt good at being his mother. I don't feel good about those glasses, but so it goes.

At around 5 my love shifted to a concern for his mind; his body became more of a house for a complicated, feeling, cognitively complex mind, and his emotional well being stole my attention. If he was teased or felt rejected or hurt by words or confused by the logic of the world it stung my heart and lungs to the point of having to catch my breath. It was excruciating watching the concepts of betrayal, embarrassment, and humiliation creep into his reality. Shame, regret - awful things to watch your kid grapple with. At the same time, it was completely heartening and joyful to witness the concepts of hope, self, universality, empathy, compassion, and ambition take over his worldview. This is when the responsibility of being his mother became intimidating in a way it hadn't been before and I began to question my abilities and capacity. My glasses got slightly better.

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Some time around 12 things drastically moved into the love/hate camp. We felt like we were being held hostage in our home most days, by our ineptitude and by his puberty.  I articulated for the first time, to myself and friends, that I loved my son beyond infinity and he was the best thing that ever happened to me and I hated being a parent. No matter how much practice I had I never seemed to get better at it. No matter how many times we thought ahead and tried to anticipate every possible scenario he would throw us a curveball that left us completely flustered and flabbergasted. Our power dynamic was constantly being pushed to its limits and we were exhausted all of the time. For his 14th birthday we made him a cake and wrote "Get Well Soon" on it. This is the time when I became aware that I was probably doing irreparable harm, this was going to be the time we would need to hash out later, when he was an adult, possibly with a therapist. This is when I was failing.

I don't have pictures of this phase readily available, and that's probably for the best.

At 16 or 17 I felt a return to the first and second phases, the bodily protective and emotional armor phases, as I sensed his bodily and emotional vulnerability in the world; cars, drugs, sex, right wing media, conspiracy theories, cigarettes, restaurant jobs, nocturnal sleep patterns, inertia, were all rushing towards him like they had being cooped up in a cage for his whole life and they couldn't wait to smother him in their harm. I felt a tenderness and empathy that I hadn't been able to tap into for several years, probably because we weren't under constant siege from his hormones anymore. This is when it dawned on me that while I had been in survival mode for the last few years I now had to prepare myself for that last push, the one where you help your child thrive and become big and whole and ready for the enormous world waiting for him, where you aren't directly battling the potential harm coming his way but hopefully equipping him to do battle with it, on his own. While you watch and see. Gulp.

 Rebecca Reid took this photo!

Rebecca Reid took this photo!

 Anja Schutz took this photo!

Anja Schutz took this photo!

The last couple years have been...fuck, I don't know how to describe it. There isn't a word (in English at least) for the mixture of mourning and awe his adulthood brings but there are many cultural metaphors for this phase and they are all profoundly accurate in my experience. I do feel like a mother bird watching her chick fly for the first time, hoping his wings work, realizing that if they don't it's all my fault. Fuck. I thought I would feel this way until he was at least 30 and that I would just be holding my breath for a decade, but I find myself slightly relieved and grateful to being moving into a new phase, one where I just simply trust him. I trust the strength of his body and his mind, I have faith that he'll live, and live well. I know that I did my best, but that it wasn't always the best for him, and that we will have a reckoning some day and I will have questions to answer. But I also know that we fucking love each other and since day one, that's all that's mattered.

 Anja Schutz took this portrait of Zane as part of an awesome series of portraits of men being touched, unknowingly, by friends and partners. It makes me feel woozy with motherly love.

Anja Schutz took this portrait of Zane as part of an awesome series of portraits of men being touched, unknowingly, by friends and partners. It makes me feel woozy with motherly love.

Happy Birthday Zane Reid! I miss you like hell and think you're the best thing ever.

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid

Remember when Zane turned 18? That was a relief. Remember when he turned 19? That was hard. Today he turns 20. It's pretty great. 

 Me, close to 20 years old.

Me, close to 20 years old.

The exciting thing about Zane turning 20 is that he is entering into the decade of figuring out who you're not in order to become who you are, the decade of trial and error, of growing pains and growing rewards, of becoming a substantial person in the world who other people will actually listen to. You guys, he's not a teenager anymore. Gulp.

He's like, a man. A very tall, handsome, kind, friendly, thoughtful, smart, employed, tax-paying, car-driving, apartment-renting, checkbook-owning, girlfriend-having, vote-casting, cooking-his-own-food man. When your baby is a baby you call them your baby, but you don't ever call your grown male child your man (that would sound creepy and weird and I don't suggest you do it), and maybe that's because he's not your man; he's figuring out how to be his own man, and not your baby. Double gulp.

So, today I'm missing my baby but super proud to know this man is out there, finding his way, soaking it all up, and giving it back. Happy Birthday Zane, you are the best!

 

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid
CategoriesZaned!

Remember when Zane turned 18? That was awesome. Today he turns 19.

There are a lot of firsts in a parents life and every parent notices different ones. When your baby is young they come every day, like a barrage of cheap and common tricks, every one of them new and exciting to you and boring to others; every baby rolls eventually.

When your baby reaches pre-adolescence the firsts become more nuanced and fraught with potential pain - the first time she won't hold your hand in public or tell you she loves you in front of her friends; where you were once cool you are now a dork. I remember the first time I refused to skip down the street with my mom, newly self-conscious and beginning the hard act of distinguishing myself from her. She took it in stride, but I remember knowing I had hurt her.

When your pre-adolescent becomes a teenager their firsts as people become indistinguishable from your firsts as a parent - the first time they drive on their own is the first time you let them drive on their own. And when your teenager becomes an adult most of their firsts are unknown to you, mysterious and probably cringe-worthy - you are happy to let them be that way.

So.

My baby. The first time I cut food for him. When his L's became actual L's; "yud" became "love." His first deep cut, above his left eyebrow. The stitches. The first day he did not nurse. The first time he saw the ocean.

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My child. His first subway ride. Baseball game. Sleepover. Crush. 

My teenager. Hair. Oh the hair! When "Can you come over and play?" became "Wanna hang out?" He is taller than me. Driving. 

My young adult. Complex relationships. Hitting 6' 3". Work. More work. Living in a house other than mine. Filing his taxes. And this:

His first birthday without his mom waking him up to wish him Happy Birthday. His first birthday in which he will not see his mom at all. Which is to say, dear reader, my first birthday without being able to wake him up and wish him Happy Birthday. My first birthday not seeing him at all.

This is, of course, a first that every parent will go through, and so in some ways it is cheap and common and not exciting to anyone, least of all me. But it is also a first that feels overwhelmingly significant. 

When I turned 19, Zane was at my birthday party. He was 3 months and 1 day old. We have been sharing birthdays for half my life now. To not share this one with him means that, really and truly and kind of forever, our relationship has moved on from the intimate and immediate one we've had for the last 18 years and into a distant and distinctly adult one. From now on, the injuries he sustains will be handled by doctors, he is well acquainted with a fork and knife, he can buy his own ballgame tickets, and he has driven across the country. Twice.

My role is no longer an observer and cheerleader of firsts. To be honest, I don't really know what it is, for the first time.

 The first time he lived in a tent in the woods of CA.

The first time he lived in a tent in the woods of CA.

  The first time he saw the Badlands.

The first time he saw the Badlands.

  The first time he was so handsome.

The first time he was so handsome.

So, if you see him today, tell him his mother wishes him a Happy Birthday, okay?

Posted
AuthorSarah Reid
CategoriesZaned!

This might just be the biggest victory of my life. This birthday feels uber-super-crazy significant, and not just in the usual cultural ways: He can do a ton of stuff he couldn't do yesterday! The Army is sending things to our house! He's technically a man now! No, this feels primal and necessary and peaceful and fleeting and momentous and I want to take a brief moment to think about it.

When I was 15 my friend Zane died. When I was 18 my first love Martin died. When I was 19 my good friend Ozzy died (he had been in the hospital when my Zane was born). By the time I was 24 I had gone to 5 funerals for people under the age of 22. I've spent a lot of time as an adult feeling the impact of these losses, and thinking about the impact of these losses, and I couldn't overstate them if I tried. Quite simply, I know about death. I know it's very close and I know it could happen any time, to anyone. I know you can't negotiate with it. I know it's final. 

Zane's been an awesome kid to raise. He's kind and compassionate first and foremost. He's present, emotional, smart, people love him, and he still loves me - he tells me so every day. We've had our moments, even years, but all in all, I lucked out and I know it. As his 18th birthday has been getting closer it's been dawning on me that I think I've been holding my breath, hoping he lives to see 18, not being sure that he would.

Last night he called home at 10:45pm to say he'd be home by 1am, and he'd officially be 18 then. I said, "Okay, but I really do need you to come home. I need you to be alive tomorrow." He laughed and assured me he would be. 

When I got up this morning I opened his bedroom door and there he was, all six feet three inches of him, spread out horizontally on a double bed that doesn't fit him even if he's sleeping in it the right way, and his chest was rising. And his body moved. And I can breathe a little deeper today.

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Posted
AuthorSarah Reid
CategoriesZaned!