My sweet boy,
I see you from across the kitchen and I have to find an excuse to look away. Any excuse. I have to turn my back toward you because I know if I blink the tears will spill down my cheeks. Tears of immense joy, but I don’t want you to witness me trying to hold them back. I don’t want you to see me gasping for air as I quietly force my next breath past the lump in the back of my throat. I don’t want you to remember us together in this kitchen with me falling to pieces.
Falling to pieces. How profound those words are. Here I stand–a grown woman–and when I watch you, I can only attempt to put into words the way I feel.
I see pieces of your father in you. I see the man who has stood by me from the very beginning. The man I essentially grew up with and have loved since I was 18 years old. The man who allowed us to go our own separate ways, so that we could ultimately find our way back to one another when the time was right. The man who is strong when I am weak, who is courageous when I’m not prepared to be brave, and who carries my burdens when I cannot bear the weight myself. The man who reassures me everything will absolutely be alright, even if he silently worries it won’t be. The man who has only ever whispered the words, “I do,” to me. I pray you love your wife the way your father has loved me.
I have laid witness to all of the experiences in life that have shaped you into the man you are becoming. I hope you understand why you and I haven’t always had it easy. More times than I can count, I have stood at the bottom of the staircase looking up to your closed bedroom door. More times than I can count, I stood there with a breaking heart wanting to solve your problems or conflicts or struggles. More times than I can count, I heard you cry, or shout or play music so loudly that it was drowning out more than just your thoughts. More times than I can count, I stood frozen, with my heart telling me to walk up that staircase to comfort you–but the mom in me knew better.
Someday, I hope you realize that in all of the fiery fury of raising a boy, I had to let you find your way. I had to leave you alone with your own thoughts, and leave you alone with your own frustration, alone with your own pain and with your own remorse. And in all of those moments that you thought I was leaving you alone, I was preparing you for adulthood. From a short distance, just down the staircase, I was there.
The terrible twos brought days upon days of bruises strewn across your forehead. They became your signature look. If you didn’t get your way, you took it out on the hardwood floors. I would step over you, move things out of your way, and allow you and the wood to figure things out. “This too shall pass,” I would remind myself.
The elementary and middle school years brought a new kind of challenge. Hormones were raging and testosterone was off the charts. You struggled and doors slammed. And when the house would shake, my heart would break. But again, you were learning that life wouldn’t always be easy and that struggles would always be real. “This too shall pass,” older moms would reassure me.
The high school years opened up a whole new highway in front of you–literally. Driving created a newfound freedom allowing you to navigate your way through different levels of responsibilities, first jobs, concerts, weekend road trips with the guys, and a girlfriend. You were busy building your platform, board by board, nail by nail. We watched as you used words to be gentle and kind, making us proud. Your talent to create astonishing beauty, which left me breathless. Your fists when rage became too much to contain. It broke me. It built you. “This too shall pass,” your father would remind me.
And now we have found ourselves at the crossroads. You are one small step away from your next chapter. Leaving high school. Leaving home. Leaving me. I see others look at their sons with worry and sadness and I don’t understand that. I think to myself, ‘This is where real life begins!” And while I feel excitement for what your future holds, this is where things begin to categorically count.
There will no longer be me standing at the bottom of the staircase, bailing you out, making the occasional excuse for you, and guiding you through decisions over dinnertime conversations. No longer the ease of high school, which in the big picture is more like grade school for grown up kids. This is where it gets tough. This is where determination and perseverance and grit really count. This is where professors do not even notice if you don’t show up for class. This is where life doesn’t give you extra credit as a means for improvement. This is where you are handed a syllabus and it will be only your decision if you read the ink on the pages and meet deadlines. In this place it will be entirely up to you if you watch the sun rise or if the sun watches you sleep. And when darkness falls, your decisions as a man will be profound. They will shape you. This will be your story to carry forward. It will be forever with you.
I’m so excited to see you go.
To cheer as you move forward.
To watch your future unfold.
To lay witness to each step you take as you walk up your own staircase.