I remember when my son was born like it was yesterday—a fussy, colicky, jaundiced, heat-rash bundle of baby boy. My baby boy. And I loved him more than I could have ever fathomed I could love anyone.

Today, he is on the brink of turning 15. He’s tall and slender and gangly. Long, skinny arms and long, skinny legs. A shock of curly blond hair on top of his head. Big hands and big feet. Braces make his grin shiny. The odd zit is a pop of red on his fair face, which still has a bit of little boy pudge to it, but with a manly jaw developing. 

He is a complete contradiction, 24/7.

He is shoving me (the embarrassing mom) away but pulls me close at times.

He wants to look cool in front of his friends but will still dance all goofy with me in the kitchen.

He strives for independence but admits he still needs help sometimes.

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He eats everything in sight but then tells me he’s still hungry.

He doesn’t want me to hang out with him but then asks me to come sit on his bed and chat.

He cannot wait for his driver’s license next year but is nervous and worried about it.

He knows everything but will occasionally ask me for advice.

He sometimes rages and yells at me but at other times, tells me he loves me.

His words and actions sometimes cut me deeply. He can hurt me more than he will ever realize. This boy-man, whom I carried for 9 months, whom I sacrifice so much for, whom I would do anything for, can slice my heart with his harsh words. 

His apologies, which come after he’s been left alone to stew and think, are genuine, remorseful, and touching.

I know this is normal. I know this is actually good. My son is growing up, flexing his independence, pulling apart from me, and focusing on his friends. This is all good. This is what is supposed to happen.

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But where is my baby boy with the endless chatter and energy? My baby boy who would climb in my lap for the same story—over and over again—before bed? My baby boy whom I would rock to sleep while dreaming of who and what he might become someday? 

He’s in there still. I know it.

When he leans down for a hug, I see that baby boy. 

When he curls up on the couch next to me to watch TV, I see that baby boy.

When he excitedly shows me a TikTok video that makes him laugh, I see that baby boy.

When he asks for advice about how to deal with a blow-up with a friend, I see that baby boy.

When he tells me about his latest girl crush, I see that baby boy.

I pray he will grow up to be a well-adjusted, kind, responsible man who works hard. 

I pray he will be both a good husband and a good dad. 

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I pray he knows he can always dance all goofy with me in the kitchen or call me to chat. 

I pray he remembers his childhood fondly, and that he knows I did the best I could as his mom. 

I pray he always remembers just how very much I love him.

All these things . . . because he will always be my baby boy.

Carole Johnston

Carole Johnston has been married to her college sweetheart for 20 years and adores her teenage son and preteen daughter. Their senior doggie rounds out their crazy lives in Ontario, Canada. When she isn’t working as an administrative assistant, she can often be found baking while singing the wrong words to popular songs. Her love of organizing products is matched only by her love of makeup. Her favorite topics to write about are parenting and health, with a few publications so far (a story, a testimonial, and two poems). She feels most like herself when she is writing. Her hope is that her words will help others feel understood, and will meet them exactly where they are in that very moment.