My son is now 12. No longer little, not yet grown.

It’s so hard to imagine that he’s soon becoming a young man. He’s almost taller than me, and he’s eagerly measuring that ever so quickly closing gap weekly. Twelve years have gone by since he was this tiny little bundle of chubbiness placed on my chest.

My first diaper change. First bottle feed. First breastfeed. My first rude awakening to what they don’t teach you in school: How extremely difficult breastfeeding can be. How it doesn’t always come naturally. How the guilt when it just doesn’t work out can crush your very soul.

He was my first introduction to the never-ending judging by everyone in society. Before I had him, I had no idea how ruthless society is to mothers.

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He is my firstborn. A strong-willed toddler who definitely gave us a challenge. How is he 12 already? 

The baby cheeks have long gone, his eyes no longer filled with wonder at the small stuff. Those eyeswise beyond their years, deep and darkthey watch me intently as he notices me staring at him from the kitchen.

“You’re doing it again, Mom,” he says while rolling his eyes.

He knows I’m reminiscing in my mind on days he cannot even remember. And to this 12-year-old boy, that’s so weird. So to break the somber mood that’s about to creep in, I propose we go take a little drive. He’s not keen on the idea but wisely agrees just to make me feel better. Because that’s who he is: he’s kind, compassionate and loving. And man, am I proud of him.

When I drive to an empty parking lot and tell him to get in the driver’s seat for his first-ever lesson behind the wheel, the eyes of wonder are back. Once again I get to see that excitement and a smile that almost recreates those lost baby cheeks. 

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

But now that happiness is not for a new toy car. Now it’s for the chance to be viewed as older. To learn something that will ultimately be used for more freedom and independence. I can see his pride as he gets the Jeep to reverse neatly between the lines.

He’s trying not to show me how nervous he is when he presses the gas and the Jeep starts to move. He’s trying so hard to make me believe he’s ready and grown.

And as his mom, I play along, just as I did when he was three and he walked across a balancing beam pretending to have no fear. At that moment, I’m reminded that he’s 12. He’s still, only 12. 

And while it is no longer toy cars, excavators, and tractors that make his eyes twinkle, there’s now a whole new world for him to explore. And I’ll be right by his side to guide him as I always have, for as long as he needs me to. Because that’s what motherhood isholding on, while gently learning to let go

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Jennifer is a Montessori teacher who left the classroom to focus on homeschooling her two amazing sons. Married to her best friend for over a decade and living in the Caribbean on a tiny island, which has its challenges and its perks.

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