Several years back, right at this time of year, we were driving up the dusty monotony that is Highway 5 in California. We were on our way home from Legoland, and then Los Angeles, where we’d celebrated H’s ninth birthday. Lulu was in the back seat with H, just five herself. We were listening to one of the early Harry Potter books on tape. I was four months pregnant with Mr. T.

Somewhere near the stink of the cattle farms of Kettleman City, I began to cry. I tried to be quiet about it, not wanting the kids to notice, and I just let the tears roll down behind my sunglasses. But eventually I couldn’t help gasping for breath and Chris, from the driver’s seat, noticed that something was up.

“What’s wrong?”

“He’s nine,” I sniffed. “He’s halfway to eighteen.”

Maybe it was pregnancy hormones, but that birthday was hard for me. Before that, I suppose, the kids seemed like little kids, and growing up was a far-off land. But something about hitting that birthday, the halfway mark to adulthood, felt like we’d taken a turn down a whole new road.

That was exactly nine years ago. My baby turned eighteen this week.

I’m getting a little teary as I type this. But just a little. ‘Cause, see, back nine years ago, when I imagined how I’d feel right now, I was sure I’d be unbearably sad. All I could imagine was my little boy growing up and growing away from me. But there was something missing from that image. I couldn’t see the actual person H would be at eighteen.

I’m going to apologize in advance right now. I’m about to do something downright uncouth. I’m going to brag about my kid.

And my bragging is all the more reprehensible because I’ve already gone on about the kid here recently, talking about his video project and his college plans. But H has had a few rather thrilling weeks.

A few weeks back, I accompanied him to Spotlight! a local film competition for teenagers. The ceremony was structured like a mini-Academy Awards; filmmakers didn’t know whether their work had been nominated until categories were announced during the ceremony. With each category, four or five films were announced, and a short clip was shown from each. Then the winner was announced, he or she went to the front to make an acceptance speech, and his or her entire film was screened.

The theater was packed; the vibe was thrilling. The Best Cinematography category was announced and H’s film was nominated. Very exciting to see a clip of his film on that big screen!

He didn’t win, but he was nominated again in the next category: Best Editing. He didn’t win that one either, but the fact that he’d been nominated twice was pretty fabulous.

Then they got to the final award: Best of Show. This category included a $1,500 prize. Six films were nominated. When H’s film was announced among them, he and I giggled together in disbelief.

Guess who won?

Absolutely unbelievable. H. went to the front and made a speech. He remembered to thank his parents. And he got a huge, fake check. Haven’t we all hoped to be awarded one of those big checks at some point in our lives?

he won!

I was proud to the point of giddiness. For about twenty-four hours straight.

But wait, dear Reader, the bragging must go on. I know, I know, I’m terrible. I promise to be humble after this. Really I do.

Because the next week, H’s same film had a chance of being nominated in the CineYouth festival in Chicago. This festival is particularly prestigious because it’s part of the Chicago International Film Festival, and it receives submissions from all over the country.

Check out the winners. Make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom. (Edited to add: That link now leads to the current year’s winners. If you’d been able to scroll down for 2010, you would have seen he won Best Overall.)

Astounding. I don’t know what else to say.

All this excitement tempers the melancholy of my oldest turning eighteen. How could I not be thrilled at the idea of this kid going out into the world to pursue what fires him?

But H is more than a handful of awards, or a list of college acceptances. He’s a complicated, fascinating person. He’s someone I (almost!) always enjoy spending time with; someone whose insights and opinions matter more to me than almost anyone’s.

When I wrote about him deciding to go to college in New York, my Ravelry friend Therese, a former homeschooler with grown daughters, left me these wise words.

“How wonderful – it is so exciting to watch our grown and almost-grown homeschoolers go off and follow their interests. Mine are both far away, but it makes me happy, not sad, to see them busily studying, working, and making art. This is the way itโ€™s supposed to be!”

Therese is right. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Which is why this eighteenth birthday, the thought of which had me in sobs nine years ago, came and went, more hopeful than sad.

Thanks for letting me brag. That felt much better than crying all over my computer.

This is the way it’s supposed to be.

27 comments… add one
  • Just Peaches May 14, 2010 @ 11:57

    You have every reason to brag Patricia, you raised an accomplished young man.

    I think every mother out there must understand how you’re feeling. Would you believe I once calculated how many dinners I had left to share with my oldest — I think he was about nine then too. (sad I know, but absolutely true)

    I’ve written this somewhere before, it is ironic that those who we hold closest to our hearts are the ones we have to let go.

    • patricia May 15, 2010 @ 21:43

      Oh, that’s funny about calculating dinners!

      I guess the lesson here is that we should try to enjoy where we are now, and not worry about what will come later–because it may not be as hard as we imagine.

      Keep enjoying those dinners!

  • Diane May 14, 2010 @ 15:19

    OH! Congrats to the boy!! Here I am all teary reading this and I don’t even really know you all! : )

    I know that cattle place and remember that stretch of road quite well from when I was a little girl about the age of nine. As I read your post and type this, my boy is in the kitchen cooking us dinner — and one day he’ll be 18?! I hope it’s true for me, too, what you and T say that it will feel amazing and not just sad!

    Well done, mama.

    • patricia May 15, 2010 @ 21:49

      See, here’s proof of how olfactory memories are so strong: you remember Kettleman City!

      Em is cooking dinner for you? Man! No worries about him turning eighteen–who knows what that kid will be accomplishing by then! Making knives, making dinner…You’ll be thrilled for him and whatever plans he has, I guarantee it!

  • Debbie May 14, 2010 @ 16:13

    Oh my goodness. Congrats to H. You should brag; I would be. My guy is almost four and this impending birthday has me in a little “How did he get to four” shock. But I like how you related that it was because you didn’t know “who” he’d become that made you sad. I can totaly see that. As we embark on our unschooling journey I’m so excited and intrigued with what lies ahead. I hope my young man turns out as fine as yours. Happy Birthday H – and Happy Birth Day to you too P. <3

    • patricia May 16, 2010 @ 21:13

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Debbie!

      I envy you just starting out your journey. Enjoy where you are right now, and don’t worry about what comes later. I’m finally getting better at that.

      And how did you know my birthday was coming up?

      • wanderingsue Jun 11, 2013 @ 6:45

        I don’t think she was talking about your birthday, just celebrating the fact that your eldest’s birthday is a fairly significant day for you, too- sort of the Birth Day of you as a parent.

  • Valarie May 15, 2010 @ 6:46

    Oh keep bragging!!!! Congratulations. What incredible accomplishments. I’m so excited for you, for H., and the whole wonderfarm family. I’m having the same issues or thoughts on the difficulty of letting go. Thanks for sharing this post with us and i love those film clips. Take Care.

    • patricia May 16, 2010 @ 21:16

      Ah, the letting go. It isn’t easy, but it also isn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
      But I may be singing a different tune come August, when he’s about to go off to school. I know you’ll be able to commiserate with me, Valarie!

  • molly May 15, 2010 @ 14:24

    you should be proud! so should H.! and who says a parent can’t brag? i mean, not like the mom at the little league games who tells you her son is reading at a 3rd grade level at the age of 5 (as you watch him hopelessly lost on the field). but accomplishments deserve praise! best of show – woohoo! i do love that movie and think about it often. how could it not win?

    • patricia May 16, 2010 @ 21:23

      Oh, I’ve been meaning to mention that Mr. T is reading at a 7th grade level these days.

      Just kidding.

      I try not to brag–but then again, I’m not bragging about myself. I’m bragging about my very independent kid. And yes, I’m proud of him! Woohoo too!

  • susan May 15, 2010 @ 19:13

    This is thrilling! I love the drama of the whole thing…getting nominated and not getting several awards and then ta dah!: Best of Show. And the CineYouth Best Overall! Wow. I just know that one day I’ll be telling people I know his mom. Creativity runs in the family. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • patricia May 16, 2010 @ 21:28

      Oh, I’m so glad you picked up on the drama of that ceremony. It was thrilling! I wish you all could have been there!

      It was the Sunday night after our homeschool camping trip, and the day of Mr. T’s first communion. We were all a little worn out, so Chris opted to stay home with the other two.

      He will regret that for a very long time, I think. Poor Daddy.

  • Carrie May 15, 2010 @ 22:36

    I am so glad that you took time to brag! I love to hear success stories, and these were some doozies!

  • Angela May 16, 2010 @ 20:57

    I’m with Molly: this is a very different kind of bragging, and totally allowed! Congratulations (and happy birthday) to H. And what a lucky boy to have a mama who gave him the room to do all this. And who so clearly appreciates the person he is. Thrilling stuff all the way around.

    • patricia May 16, 2010 @ 21:43

      Thanks, Angela.

      I do appreciate who he is–and he’s never been a walk in the park! But he wouldn’t be who he is if he were a walk in the park.

      That’s parenting for you!

  • Barrie May 17, 2010 @ 8:18

    Oh Tricia! You had me crying all over my computer–with bursts of laughter thrown in at your promises to be humble later. All the other posters are correct–you should be proud! Especially at moments like this, I think it’s required of mothers to brag (we might wonder if you didn’t). Congratulations to you and to the accomplished young man you’ve raised! I am, as ever, awed and inspired by you and your family.

    • patricia May 17, 2010 @ 22:26

      Thank you so much, Barrie. (She writes, trying to sound humble.)

  • Kristin May 17, 2010 @ 21:45

    Wonderful news. And the look on his face at the awards ceremony is so cute–he’s wasn’t at all like James Cameron beating his chest and holding up his fist, “I’m king of the world!” He looks gracious and truly grateful.

    He is and will continue to be a stunning filmmaker. I’m so curious which position will attract him–producer, director, cinematographer, editor? I can remember when you thought he might be an architect–but a filmmaker it will be–way cool. Congrats to you and Chris.

    • patricia May 17, 2010 @ 22:37

      His speech wasn’t exactly polished or planned, but you could definitely tell that he was amazed and honored.

      I always figured he’d do something visual; he’s such a visual person. I’m guessing that he might lean toward cinematography or directing–but I’ve learned not to spend too much time predicting what my kids will do. They surprise me and prove me wrong all the time.

      Thanks, Kristin.

  • Emily May 21, 2010 @ 1:13

    Can’t it be a celebration when we talk of our children’s achievements? Why does it have to be sensationally devoid of empathy to gush when I tell another mother that my daughter is reading already at barely four. H is dedicated and is being rewarded for his best efforts with top honors. Why should you apologize when you share it. There is a word in Yiddish: kvell. It’s a good word, devoid of any negative connotations. It’s what you are doing, kvelling on about your boy. What a good thing.

    • patricia May 25, 2010 @ 8:00

      Hooray, I learned a new word!

      I will try not to apologize so much when I kvell about my kids.

      And I know that example about the four-year-old reading is not hypothetical. So glad you know how to kvell!

      • Emily May 25, 2010 @ 21:56

        It is important to recognize and give over to that warm feeling when you kvell, also. This is when mothers get into these convos: “Oh, my Joey took top honors,” and “Rachel won the role of Sugar Plum Fairy for this year’s Nutcracker.” The underlying tone is “I AM SO PROUD” and “I AM SO HAPPY MY KID IS DOING SO WELL” — these are gushing, unapologetic, brimming-with-parental-happiness declarations with absolutely none of the nasty my-kid-is-great-therefore-your-kid-is-not tone that is so not kvelling.

        Kvell on my friend. You have so much to celebrate.

      • patricia May 27, 2010 @ 7:55

        I get it. It’s the Jewish mother thing. Brimming over with unapologetic pride about your kid. Maybe if I bragged in an ebullient New Jersey accent it would feel more natural.

        “Ah my boy. He keeps winning all these festivals!”

        I am going to give over to that warm feeling and kvell. I am.

  • janet May 27, 2010 @ 21:32

    Well, honestly I am not that surprised. He has always had a fair amount of determination, drive and most imoprtantly vision! Wonder who he gets all that from??? What a creative being you have help raise.

    David and I are so proud of H and this crazy important moment he is living in now. What a fun time to be experiencing with him. Hug him from us if he’ll let you. 18! that sounds so old, says the mom of 17 and 1/2 year olds.

    Bask in the glow of the publicly proud parent.

  • Susan Paulkonis Jun 5, 2010 @ 7:30

    That’s so wonderful! What an amazing set of accomplishments. You *should* be proud!

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