It’s a strange feeling to look back at all the years as a parent and wonder if I am doing enough. My boys are teens. One of them has just a few baby steps left until he heads into life after living under our roof. He is fiercely independent. One of those kids who I have for my whole life mistaken for being years older than he actually is. The kind of kid who can hold a conversation that reminds you of when you are out with your friends enjoying a bottle of wine at a restaurant made for middle-aged people like myself.

The kind of kid who has planned out his own AP class schedule for the past yearsand rocked itwithout once ever wanting help studying from me. The kind of kid who pushes himself to be better in everything he does, intrinsically driven to outperform any goal he sets for himself even with my gentle prodding to allow himself room to breathe.

The kind of kid I wonder if will ever come back for more than a few days at a time once he leavestaking roots somewhere miles away to pursue the many dreams I know he has even if he doesn’t always share what they are.

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He’s one foot out the door already. Endless sports. Saturday night work shift. Hours in his room studying. It’s rare that we get a few moments together. And when we do, they are brief and hurried.

I remember when he was little, we would spend hours playing, reading, dancing, singing, going to the park, baking, and laughing. Creating the brick and mortar of love and light one underdog at a time. And it was magic.

And now, in these teen years, I wonder if I’m doing enough. Am I showing up in the ways he needs me to? Beyond sitting in the bleachers or standing on the sidelines? Am I asking enough questions even when I’m led to believe I’m asking too many? Am I asking the right ones, even though they all feel wrong?

Am I teaching him the right things? The ones that will prepare him to exit this house into a world full of unknowns, unexpectedness, and unplanned obstacles to overcome? Am I spending enough moments living in the present rather than the memories of the past? Or the anxiety of releasing him into the future?

Am I giving him what he needs right now—even when he doesn’t ask or tell me what that is? Am I helping to equip him with those words of wisdom that someday he’ll reach for in the corners of darkness as he searches for the light?

RELATED: He’s Almost a Man But My Son Still Needs Me

This space I’m in right now is hard to navigate. Trying to breathe it all in while I can before these last threads of childhood fray into adulthood. Trying to let him live his own experiences without imparting the wisdom of my middle-aged gray hair and crow’s feet into a journey he hasn’t had yet. Trying to exhale and release him in these last years together under one space while also inhaling every possible moment I can.

These years have flown by in a way I can’t even understand. How can 17 years be lived in just a heartbeat? A blink? A moment in time? Am I doing enough?

And I wonder . . . is this the circle of life? The way one generation unfolds to the next, asking themselves the same thing.

I marvel at the quickness of it all. Holding up the pieces of my heart in the mirror of time to see if all the love I hold has transferred to these boys who are my everything. And as I look at the reflection of the future I continue to nurture, I realize I am doing the best I can. And I have to think that is enough.

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Amy Keyes

Amy Keyes is a middle school teacher and freelance writer in St. Paul. When she's not cheering too loudly while spectating at her teenagers' sports, she's running, working out, binge watching recommended series on tv, or hanging out with her dog.

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