I was sitting in the car line yesterday like I have done 1,560 times before when a boy who I recognized walked by my car.
It was 3 p.m. and school was out. This meant kids flooded out of the building and began zig-zagging through the rows of cars to find their ride home.
I was about five cars back in the third row over. In this spot, I cannot see the group of kids who, by this point, have huddled in clusters at the bottom of the steps. I know they are there because I have the scene sketched in my memory. I really don’t need a real-life visual at this point.
I don’t know what that after school parking lot congregation means to these kids, but I like to imagine the burst of time spent immediately after being set free from their duties brings a bit of solace and even excitement.
As a parent of a teenager, I find myself doing a lot of comparing, contrasting, and conjuring up of what is truly going on in my son’s world.
I am learning that slowly letting go of his childhood doesn’t mean I am really in control of that process at all. It just happens—without my consent and without fail.
One day, I woke up, my son walked out of his room, and he was no longer a kid. He was a young man. He opened the fridge door to grab some breakfast. I watched him in the glow of the refrigerator light and saw a more defined silhouette of an adult. That child of mine was gone.
We have the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa. I was convinced at that moment that there is also a midnight troll that comes to wipe away our kid’s chubby cheeks and replace them with a new creature full of hormones, attitudes, and just a person who is, overall, unrecognizable.
Which brings me to the boy in the blue shirt at that middle school.
At first, I noticed how tall he was. As he got closer, I was marveling over his broad shoulders.
When he reached the point where I could really magnify his face, I saw a defined jawline and eyes that were strong and steady.
At that same moment, I still saw this young man as the little boy running and hopping down the elementary school steps.
I saw his rosy, red, and chubby cheeks with a grin slapped carelessly across his face. I saw his innocent eyes darting quickly left and right and the uncertainty of where he was going to find his ride home. I saw him struggle to get his big backpack into that car and his little brown-haired head barely poking up over the back seat.
Surely, this was not the same person. I guessed that the troll got to him, too.
I felt my heart squeeze tight, and it pushed those familiar tears of reminiscent glory into the corners of my eyes.
I was surprised that something I should have seen coming had caught me off guard so quickly.
And yet, here we are. Moms of teenagers.
We were told it was coming, but we chose to ignore the signs. We decided in our hearts that our kids would really never grow up and that naughty troll would undeniably skip over the class of 2025.
This year proved to me that all my denials of this natural process could not be contained because my son is exhibiting otherwise.
Even though I may be sad that he is no longer little, I can still cling to the memories I have been gifted with through today.
We keep clinging and they keep letting go. I guess it’s the name of the game, and I had better get used to it.
Originally published on the author’s Facebook page