Hit rewind and watch the years wind back up to the beginning.

Do you see the stark blue of his eyes? They are so translucent; you can see through to the back of his head. They haven’t had curtains of disappointment or despair pass over them yet. They are wide open sunsalmost too brilliant to stare into.

Listen to the higher register of his voice before it plummets to the basement. There is boundless energy and innocence here before life dulls the abrupt edges of his exuberance.

Watch his playfulness, how he makes faces at everyone and tries to get them to laugh. Don’t corral his joy and silliness. Let it run free because he will not always be this way. He will slowly grow inward. He will be more introspective. Less tornado, more eye of the storm.

Don’t knock over the towers he carefully erects with your impatient breath.

Help steady his hands as he places each block. Wait. Hold your breath simultaneously with him. Watch his creations creep quietly through the ceiling, stretching toward the clouds.

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Don’t ignore his nightmares. Shine a flashlight in the closet and blow away any shadows like seeds in the wind. Sweep your arms around like dancing ribbons and cast out any fear crouching underneath dust bunnies in the corners. Place your hand on his back to gently anchor him and his dreams to his bed.

Just hit pause for a moment. Memorize that smooth, pre-pimple face. Notice the dirt under his nails and the scab on his knee. Be transported back into his snug little embrace followed by a butterfly-light kiss on the cheek.

Hold him there. Smell him. Contain his boyhood for a minute in your tight grip.

When you’ve had enough, hit play and let it go. Let the years and growth of him zip by. Watch him transform just by blinking a few times.

Soon you will be here again, in the present, holding both your breath and tears, witnessing his growth into the amazing young man you have raised him to be.

Rejoice at his independence, even as you long for the dependence of his childhood. Note how he asks you if what he’s wearing is OK even as he meticulously shaves his darkening man mustache. Note how he still asks you to bring him a glass of milk even as he gets ready to go to his job at a grocery store.

Note how he carries your love everywhere even as he lives life mostly away from you now.

Be grateful for the years, the moments, the nightmares and dreams, the scuffed knees and broken hearts, the constant running around to sports practices and choir concerts and science fairs, the shuffling of messes from one room to the next, the praying through the times you didn’t know how to help his anxiety or ease his stress, the endless worries and the infinite I love yous.

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Carry it all into the future. This boy you raised is a good man. Kind and gentle. Strong and convicted. Thoughtful and generous. Let the waves of memories and the tides of wisdom rock you, mama.

These are the lullabies your baby boy, now grown, sings to you. It is your turn to be soothed. Your turn to have his strong arms carry you.

It is a job well done.

But mama, don’t fret. It’s a job that’s never truly done.

Because a boy never stops needing his mom.

Melissa Neeb

I'm a Minnesota native and lover of nature, WW2 memoirs, rescue dogs, photography, and thrifting. My husband and two teenagers are the great loves of my life. I am passionate about advocating for addiction recovery, writing about parenting, life, faith, and everything in between.