“You’ll Miss the Hustle & Bustle”

Tree, Reece and husband Mark at Reece’s last high school baseball game. (Photo: courtesy)



Every year some families dread the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Many don’t like the idea of school shopping, paying fees, and returning to the routine of homework, activities, concerts, games, etc. *Cue colossal sigh* All can be emotionally, physically and financially overwhelming. As parents dread this time of year, some parents, like those in our home, are wishing for that norm once more. What we would give to have the same pattern of life this August, but for all of us, our lives are about to change.

I am a mother of three beautiful children: 18-year-old Reece, 13-year-old Kayah and 8-year-old Bly, and have been with my husband, Mark for twenty years. Each year we were the family that dreaded summer was ending, but this year is different. Our oldest son Reece will be heading off to college. This in itself is a significant change, but to make matters more compelling is that he decided to attend college and play baseball out of state in California; 18 hours away from me.

Reece Mangan in 2001. (Photo: courtesy)

Now, while I tell you my story from a mother’s perspective, please keep in mind that I don’t intend to sound selfish. But at this moment, my heart aches. My emotions are on a roller coaster of excitement, dread, pain, love and appreciation for all that is happening. I knew this day would come, but it is just too soon. Everything new that happens with my children will always be too soon, but I know I must accept and acknowledge this circle of life.

As any mother would agree, from the moment my baby’s beautiful little black eyes looked into mine, I knew my heart would forever be outside of me. My whole self would live, breath and die for this tiny little thing I called Reece. He blessed me with the understanding that I was his world too and we smothered each other with cuddles, kisses, and hugs. It seemed nothing in this world would ever separate us.

Watching all the first’s –rolling over, crawling, talking, and walking– it all seems like a blur from how quickly life was moving. Soon, I had little hands attached to my leg or a small body wrapped around my hip. Of all the crying, laughing and in between’s, “Mommy, I need you!” would be the first thing out of his mouth. He only wanted me.

Reece as a baby. (Photo: courtesy)

As the years have gone by, little by little Reece needed me less and less. From “Mommy, hold my hand,” to an occasional hug or, “Mom, stop, you’re embarrassing me,” and eye rolls, it was apparent. Very quickly, he went from elementary school to high school. He experienced his first girlfriend, his first heartbreak, his first vehicle, and his first job. His life was happening, and I had to take a backseat and let him imbibe experience and grow from it. I had to accept it, but quickly jumped when I heard, “Mom, I need you.”

Reece grew up enjoying music, video games, basketball, and baseball. His love and talent for sports started at 6-years-old. It was apparent he was athletic, and he immediately excelled in both sports. He was such a natural, reminding me of Steve Nash on the court playing against 8th graders as a 6th grader himself. I was his biggest fan, and I am sure he knew it when he heard me yelling in the stands.

“You’ll wonder where time had gone as
you see all your hard work and life’s
most important job walk out the door
without you.”

From the first moment I saw those beautiful little black eyes, I said nothing in this world would separate us. To my despair, the future is here and all those years of wondering what my son will become, what will he accomplish in life, all my worries of hoping I raised a good man are now presenting themselves. Hoping I was a good mother. Hoping he will be strong to survive in this world. Hoping his heart doesn’t get broken again. Hoping he doesn’t fail. All the hoping will now be put to the test as I let him go. I must be strong. I must let him be the man I raised. I must set him free on his journey.

Reece playing baseball in 2018. (Photo: courtesy)

As a mother feeling selfish to keep my son within arm’s reach, I know now why my heart aches. My heart will be 18 hours away from my soul finding its own life. It will come back to me occasionally, and I will be here waiting and excited to hold him again. Until then, I will wait for the next new first and “Mom, I need you” because as his mother, I will live, breath and die for this man I call Reece.

When I first became a mother at the age of 24, I was afraid of the little person I was responsible for. How do I take care of him and raise him right when I was still learning how to be an adult myself. Nothing came naturally for me. Many people shared advice, and of course, I believed them, even if my instincts told me otherwise. I had to incorporate both traditional and non-traditional ways to survive. My parenting skills probably seemed harsh to some but in my mind, the world was ruthless, and if I did not teach my child sooner than later, the world would eat him alive.

Reece’s senior photo. (Photo: courtesy)

Throughout the stages of his life, when I felt it was time to learn something, I would teach him. From putting on his clothes to making his meals for himself, he learned many things at a young age. I always knew tomorrow wasn’t promised and if he wasn’t capable of taking care of himself, who would? This was our norm throughout his young life. I know I am making myself sound like I didn’t cuddle him or give hugs, but believe me when I say I smothered him with love and affection. He is my life.

Tree, Reece and husband Mark at Reece’s last high school baseball game. (Photo: courtesy)

So this year, as your family goes through the hustle and bustle of getting your children back to school, please, as stressful as it may be in the moment, try to stop and enjoy it because you will be like me wishing for that norm again. You’ll wonder where time had gone as you see all your hard work and life’s most important job walk out the door without you.