Once, I held your newborn body in my arms and looked at those outfits I’d received at my baby shower for you and wondered how those cute little jeans or teeny, tiny polos would ever fit you. There were only a handful of things that didn’t completely swallow your little body whole.

About a year later, Grandma bought you some overalls that were above your size. If I had tried to dress your baby-bordering-on-toddler body into that adorable preschool outfit, you would have been swimming in the excess fabric.

Around the time your toddler body grew to fit the overalls, someone from church gave us a pair of corduroy pants for a big kid. Her family was moving out of the country, and she said, “Here, you keep these. You have a boy.” And, for some reason, I did, which seems ridiculous in retrospect because I stored those pants across states for a move and then from that move to another before you grew into them. Perhaps, it was because at the time, we were a student family and a nice pair of pants seemed too good a deal to let go.

Recently, I had you and your brother in the family room trying on pairs of pants as I sorted them into piles that fit you, or him, or neither of you. You both fidgeted and got distracted and were bored. You moaned as I tossed another pair of pants at you. Neither of us was having the time of our lives, but even still, I found myself marveling. I sorted those corduroy pants into a pile for your brother to wear in a year or so. Those enormous pants–belonging to what felt like a giant when I received them seven years ago–no longer fit your tall, long-limbed body. They squeezed around your middle and your ankles showed.

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Today, I took you back to school after an appointment, and I left you a little too much in my wake. It may have been that I had a million things I knew I needed to do and you weren’t overly excited to go to school, but I slowed down once I registered you were actually behind me rather than beside me. I thought of those tall, lanky teenage boys I saw awhile back at the mall’s arcade. I remembered how they towered above me and how it struck me then that someday I was going to be surrounded by four towering boys-who-are-not-quite-men. I realized as I slowed my steps someday your long, lanky limbs are going to outpace me, you will have a to-do list a mile long, and my steps are going to be the hesitant, slow ones.

You’ve sprouted, little boy.

You’ve sprouted from that newborn babe into an adorable toddler, and now into a veritable pre-teen. As your younger brothers sprout up behind you, those baby polos and toddler overalls have gone the way of all well-used clothes and bit by bit, you lead the way into manhood. There will be more outfits to discard as inches of ankles show on your leg, as they creep, creep, creep out of acceptability.

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You’ll outgrow many more clothes. You’ll outgrow phases like others you’ve left behind–toddler tantrums, so blessedly long gone and baby signing, sadly said farewell to. You’ll outgrow your elementary school, and you’ll probably outgrow various friends over time. And while there’s an element of sadness to many of the goodbyes, there is a lot of excitement, too.

But there are some things I hope you’ll never say goodbye to.

I hope you’ll always keep your honesty and concern for those in trouble.

I hope you’ll always be willing to help when you are needed.

I hope you’ll always keep that wry sense of humor about life.

I hope you’ll keep your faith in a God who loves you.

And I hope you’ll always have a place in your heart for your mama.

Keegan Taylor

Keegan is an avid reader and an aspiring novelist who resides near Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and four boys. She blogs about reading and writing at Bibliophile Family on Facebook and Instagram, hides in the closet with a book and a cup of ridiculously rich hot cocoa, and makes a lot of library runs to pick up books on reserve.