I’ve felt him being pulled away as if by a magnet for months. A year, maybe? The centrifugal force of adolescence whipping, gripping, swirling, clawing. Pulling, pulling, pulling.
And I’ve tried so hard to keep him.
“Want to play a game? Bake something? Hey, let’s watch The Great British Baking Show! I’ll play you in HORSE if you want? I’m headed to Lowe’s, wanna come? I’m getting plants for the garden, what would you like to plant this year? You pick.”
I’ve all but grabbed him by the shoulders and stared into those beautiful blue eyes and said, “Honey, no. Just look here at me. Don’t go. I’ve got you. You don’t have to go. Keep your eyes on me.” The same way I did when he broke his arm at five years old and after four weeks when it healed, they had to remove the pins. “Look at me, sweetheart. I’m here. Just keep your eyes on my face. It will only hurt for a minute.”
But lately he looks back at me coolly. Narrows his eyes a little and says, “Nah. I’m good.”
Video games win. YouTube wins. Basketball wins. Friends win.
We drove to soccer practice last week in silence. Silence. This kid who spent the last 12+ years talking in my ear—asking questions, telling me about school or friends or his teacher or whatever he’s currently reading or what he heard on the news or his latest money-making scheme, Mom, Mom, hey Mom, talking, talking, talking (so much so that on rare occasions I’d actually have to ask for a few moments of quiet so I could drive). This kid who was once forever talking, was silent.
“You okay?” I asked.
My husband downloaded some old videos from a broken iPad last week. And we stumbled upon a video of my son at four that I had never seen before. I watched it five times. My heart ached because of how much I miss him. I miss little him. Little amazing, adorable, hilarious, precocious, constantly talking, forever-by-my-side him.
Afterward, I walked into the living room where he’d stationed himself in front of the TV and tried hard to keep tears from spilling over my cheeks as I said, “Hey. Listen, I want you to know how much I love you, okay?” wishing I could have just one more day with little him. But he only looked back at me blankly, wondering if his mother had finally lost her mind.
Of course, I know what you’re thinking. I know. This is what is supposed to happen! They are supposed to grow up! And away! And I know you’re right.
This is my third time watching a boy of mine slip into the whipping, swirling vortex of adolescence. And I know. I know they return—taller, leaner, deep-voiced, even more hilarious and fun, wiser, witty, a little more grown, and still absolutely amazing.
But the letting go. The change. The silence. The loss . . .
It hurts because I understand by this third time around that I will need to let go again and again and again. High school and driving. Dating and friends. College or career. Marriage and moving.
Adolescence is simply the beginning of a thousand tiny goodbyes.
I will have to let him go.
Because whatever version he was before is already gone.