As another school year closes, I’m once again struck by an ethereal sense of being punched in the gut. We have fewer summers left together than summers spent. And you’d much rather spend those with your friends than with your mother. I’m prepping for the daily, “Can I have friends over?” and the daily, “Of course!” because as much as I’d like to say no and go on a hike or to the pool together, this time is for you—to spend with those friends making mistakes and learning about life.
It’s been said from the moment you made me Mom: Don’t blink. Don’t wish the time away. It’s over before you know it. You’ll miss this. It goes too fast.
Yeah, yeah, I’d think. Tell me that when I’m not elbow-deep in diapers and spit-up. Tell me that when I’m not carrying an infant in my arms, one on my back, and literally chasing a toddler down the street on his bike. Tell me that when I’m not awake most of the night, living as a sleep-deprived zombie while I put on a happy “I’m-having-the-best-time-of-my-life” smile so my kids have the best time of theirs.
Well, I’m not doing those things now. And you don’t need to tell me. I feel the truth to those statements. It’s an ugly, heart-squeezing truth and it hurts deep.
I walked past you recently, taken aback by the shock I felt. Who is this man-child? When did you take the step from being a child to being a pre-teen? When did your feet outgrow mine? Your arms reaching above my shoulders instead of around my legs?
How did we go from talking about dinosaurs, digging in the sandbox, and floating boats down our town creek to talking about girls, cell phone etiquette, and getting ready for school dances? When did you lose your baby face and get your father’s chiseled jawline? And when did you stop racing to me, full speed, because “I just needed a hug, Mom!”
It’s happened slowly.
Now and then I’ve caught it . . . a glimpse of bits and pieces of maturity. You’d help around the house without being asked. You’d put your arm around your sister as we dragged her to yet another of your lacrosse tournaments, pretending (again) to be genuinely interested in her ability to do the splits. You’d ask your brother to play because you know he wants nothing more than to be with you, and you’d tell him how fantastic he is because you could see he needed a pick-me-up.
The hardest and most heart-wrenching is in your hugs. Because now they’re slow. And now you say, “You look like you need this, Mom.”
But I still see you, child. It’s in the laughter reserved just for me because Heaven would fall from the sky if your friends knew how funny you really think I am. And it’s in our rides to school, you curled in the front seat, long eyelashes across your cheeks as you try to catch a few more minutes of sleep. Or in your still curious questions—even if they initiate conversations I’m not ready for yet. It’s in your silence when you approach and simply stand in front of me, saying so much without speaking a word, waiting for me to wrap you in my arms before you circle me in yours.
I’ll take any hug I can get, no matter how fast or slow you come for one.
I still see you, child. Even if your arms ARE around my shoulders instead of my legs.