Where did my sweet, innocent, curious, and adorable little lambs of sons go? It seems like just yesterday my youngest could not get enough hugs, and my oldest still wanted to read bedtime stories at night, barely fitting into my lap in our oversized, comfy La-Z-Boy.
Now, both boys are obsessed with video games and barely answer my questions about their day. I feel lucky to get a one- or two-word answer . . . that is, when their little heads are not buried in a phone, laptop, or book (I prefer the book).
Gone are the days when the conversation flowed like an endless river from the backseat after school pickup. I often sought a slice of silence, just so I could hear myself think. Now, all I do is think and wonder how to fill the silence deafening my senses.
I miss their endless chatter. I miss their animated stories from the day.
I miss their backseat breakdown of recess shenanigans, and my oldest son giving life advice to my youngest son (who is only two-and-a-half years younger). So many things they said—I often had to stop and text myself because I did not want to forget the amazing and oftentimes hilarious insight they showed at such young ages.
These days, I have to look around when we are in public and pray no one heard what one child said to the other. Life lessons learned on the playground, in the boy’s bathroom, or locker room are often not appropriate for table talk with Mom (or anyone). They are daily learning about life, one pre-adolescent schoolmate at a time. And I am sure they are actively teaching others as much as they are learning, which is a frightening prospect.
That loss of innocence. The days I would say something tongue-in-cheek and then realize they overheard—knowing they did not understand brought a freedom I certainly do not know these days. Half of the time, I say something, and they are the ones who make a pun or gutter joke because, well, that is simply what boys do.
Yet, there are times—they are becoming fewer and further between—times when one son had a bad day, and he wants to talk to his mother.
A bit of prodding here and there to get him to fully open up may be required, but the desire is there, he just lacks the emotional confidence to spill completely.
My older son struggles with anxiety. At times, he gets overwhelmed with life. (Don’t we all?) Knowing this is a struggle I have dealt with for years myself, he often chooses late nights when he cannot sleep to slink slowly into my room and hesitantly ask for a chat session. On most occasions, I seize the opportunity even though my formerly sound asleep physical self desires to stay under the warm covers and drift easily back into the dreamland I inhabited mere moments before.
I know the day is coming when they prefer to spend time with their friends rather than their boring old mom. It sort of feels like that time is already here. The other evening, we were planning for my youngest son’s birthday weekend, and my oldest asked if he could be excused from the festivities and go to a friend’s house. We compromised and let him invite a friend of his own to his brother’s birthday weekend.
The sting of their constantly budding independence strikes at the most random of times and never fails to stop me in my mommy will always be there for you tracks.
I feel I am standing upon the precipice of obsessively holding on while blindly being forced to let go.
Giving my sons the freedom to experience bouts of independence I know is necessary for them to successfully transform into the young men they are daily becoming. Yet, also capitalizing on those rare moments they still emotionally, or even physically, need their mom.
My boys are 11 and soon-to-be 9 years of age. I know they are in the active trenches of full-on, die-hard, all-in boyhood. Some days I see the remnants of my young sons; others, I see the makings of a man staring back at me across the dinner table at the end of each long day.
The only thing I know to do is capture each moment, write about the often bizarre spectacles of raising sons, and hope that someday, they will look back on their childhood with the fondest of memories, the way I look back on my own. Surely the need for their mother will always be there, it just transforms over time.
The way most of the best gifts in life do.