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Am I ready for this? This new season of life will bring changes. Big changes. Ones I’m not so certain I’m ready for. And yet, they are coming, more quickly with each passing day.

An open letter to my tween son,

You are my confident firstborn. You are self-assured and yet attuned to the needs of others. You are intelligent, yet sensitive. You are stubborn, yet firm in your convictions. You are strong and athletic, yet cuddly and kind. You, my son, are a study of contrasts. You are my firstborn, and you are going to middle school. Am I ready for this? Most definitely not.

As a preschooler, we often described you as a gentle giant. You towered over your peers but graciously offered hugs when they cried. As you grew into an active little boy, so too did your magnanimous heart. You have always cared for others. Your outgoing and friendly spirit is always the first to greet others with a hug or high five. Perhaps that’s why I’m anxious about you growing up and entering a new stage.

RELATED: Dear Son: I’ve Loved Every Stage With You and I’m Never Ready to Say Goodbye

With the new year, comes a new beginning for you. And for us. And truthfully, change is scary. This year, you will leave elementary school behind and enter middle school. This is the unofficial beginning of your tween years. When I got the email with a meeting invitation for rising middle school parents, I shuddered. Am I ready for this? Most definitely not.

I worry about your sense of self as you navigate a new school with increased expectations and new friends. I pray you maintain your friendly, outgoing demeanor. I pray you handle the adjustment of higher academic expectations and independence. I pray you listen to your internal sense of right and advocate for others. I pray for your health, happiness, and safety every single day.

I’ve read a lot recently about enjoying each moment with you. It is my nature to read and prepare, so I’ve read the advice of seasoned moms who have come before me. Those who have raised happy, healthy boys who are now successful men. They navigated each stage and thankfully offered their insights to those of us who are coming next.

When I thought of welcoming a beautiful baby boy into this world, I never considered raising a tween in the age of social media and intense scrutiny. I never thought of worrying about your safety as you left the confines of our home. I didn’t realize how my heart would hurt when yours did. Part of becoming a mom, I realized, is understanding that no stage lasts forever. With each new stage comes new learning, new possibilities, and put simply, change.

Of course, with each new stage, I learned to adjust. I accepted a new equilibrium. Mostly I followed your confident lead. When you left preschool and entered kindergarten with confidence, I followed your lead. When you moved from the consistency of coach pitch baseball to being the pitcher, I followed your lead and cheered you on.

RELATED: “Your Son Growing Up Will Feel Like the Slowest Breakup You’ve Ever Known” Aches in Every Mother’s Heart

When you made the leap from rec ball with your church and school friends to playing on a travel team with some of the best talent in our area, I followed your lead. When you asked to be on student leadership and get to school early to help younger students in the morning car rider line, I followed your lead.

Middle school feels different though. You are growing up far more quickly than I had imagined. You will be influenced by peers more than me in the years ahead. Your pending independence is equally exciting and overwhelming. Another study in contrasts.

I imagine you will approach this change with your signature confidence. So, again, I will follow your lead. I will be your biggest encourager. I will be your soft landing spot. I will be your mom. And I will follow your lead, whether I’m ready or not.

Endlessly grateful to follow your lead,

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Salem R. Metzger

Salem R. Metzger, PhD is the author of The Smetz Files, her blog that features her simple musings as a small-town mom. A wife and mom to two active kids and the family’s loyal German Shepherd, she is a former educator who enjoys writing and family life in North Carolina. Connect with The Smetz Files on Instagram or Pinterest for Salem’s most updated content.

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