I’ve been here before.

This space between elementary school and middle school is familiar to me for I have walked this road before with my oldest son. This road is a place where childhood really starts to feel finite and the pull of adolescence finds its way into our lives. It’s a short road but one that feels endless at times and is often uncomfortable and scary.

I’ve been here before.

I’m no stranger to closed doors. Once again these closed doors fill the hallways of my home, a home that used to be filled with the sounds of two little boys giggling and their little feet pitter-pattering everywhere. Sometimes I pause outside these closed doors, hoping to hear some piece of the little boy version that once existed. Sometimes I hear it — the childish giggle. But mostly, I hear a deep voice I still haven’t quite gotten used to hearing.

I’ve been here before.

I know the importance of noticing my tone of voice and being mindful of how I say something.

Asking a simple question like “How was your day?” now takes a certain kind of finessing as hormones are starting to surge and just a wrong look can result in eye-rolling and dramatic sighs. 

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I’ve been here before.

The sting of not being the most important people in his life is familiar as invitations from his friends now take precedence for him and are preferred over family dinners at restaurants, family trips to the beach, or lazy family days at home. I know eventually the pendulum swings back the other way, and he will start again to enjoy time with the family. This time is only temporary.

I’ve been here before.

My nights and weekends are no longer my own as I now must leave space for my tween to have his own plans. My car has once again become a personal Lyft, available at a moment’s notice to transport tweens to their last-minute, poorly planned activities.

I’ve been here before.

I know to take a deep breath before entering his room as it usually is a total science experiment in there. Frequent conversations about why showering is important and why cereal bowls can’t be left on bureaus now fill my days. I know the time is coming where he will care about the state of his room but that time is not now.

I’ve been here before . . . but not quite like this.

I used to think that my final time down this road from childhood to adolescence would be exciting. After all, I know what’s on the other side of this road, and it’s quite amazing.

I assumed that once I reached this road with my youngest son, I would be relieved to almost be on the other side. 

I was wrong. 

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Although it’s an exhausting, smelly, challenging road, there is beauty on this road, especially when you have an awareness that it is the last time you will help a child transition from the wonder and innocence of childhood to the independence and difficulties of adolescence. 

This is a truly special process. 

There is something really wonderful that happens when my tween son lays next to me on the couch while watching TV and lets me play with his hair, just like he used to when he was a toddler watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

In moments like this, there is a synchrony between the little boy he once was and the young man he is becoming.

There are wonder and amazement in watching my little boy become a young man, one with his own political views, interests, and thoughts of the worlda young man I find myself admiring more deeply than I ever thought I could.

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There is something truly heartwarming to be able to bear witness to the transition taking place right before my eyes. 

I’ve been here before . . . but this time I’m going to enjoy it and revel in its beauty for it will be gone for good all too soon.

P.S. Manual to Manhood has been a go-to for our boys as they transition into young men. We thought yours might like it, too! Is he too busy to sit and read? He can listen to it here, on Audible.

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Jenni Brennan

Jenni Brennan, LICSW is an author, podcaster, college professor, therapist, and mother. Her work centers around the topics of grief, health and wellness, relationships, and parenting.