It was supposed to be a joke. His younger siblings were getting bubble bath for Christmas, knowing he no longer took baths but showers instead, his grandma thought it would be fun to put manly-smelling deodorant and body spray in his stocking.
When he pulled the items out, a smile spread across his face—he was genuinely excited about the gag gift. His uncle (a middle and high school PE teacher who deals with the effects of such body spray regularly) gave him a lesson on the importance of a light spray and made sure to reinforce the fact that spraying is not the same as showering.
And now, my little boy smells like a man.
It’s not just the scent of a man’s deodorant coming from his little boy body that has me flinching a little when I look at him. It’s all the other ways he smells a little more like a man every day.
It’s in his voice when he shouts, “Let’s go!” in the middle of an intense video game. And when I have to ask him what “sweaty” means and need him to explain why that’s a good thing.
It’s seeing him in real football pads, so much bigger than the ones that came with Halloween costumes not that long ago.
It’s in the fact that he now chooses ESPN over Disney or Nickelodeon. “Baby shows” no longer keep his interest.
It’s in his wish list for birthdays and Christmas—no longer full of toys and superheroes but devices and sports equipment instead.
It’s in the unexplained moodiness (yes, tween boys get moody too) and a new need to challenge and question what he used to accept.
It’s in the way he picks up the baby with ease now and offers to read to his little brother on the school bus.
It’s in the questions he asks and the things he knows—things I didn’t realize he was ready for.
It’s in the way he puts himself to bed and makes his own breakfast in the morning.
It’s in his prayers at night when he asks God to help him do the right thing.
It’s in my prayers for him as I ask God to give Him the strength he’ll need to do that right thing, knowing that being nice on the playground will soon pale in comparison to the pressures he’ll face.
My little boy smells like a man. And I don’t know if I’m ready for that.
But what I do know is I don’t just have a front-row seat to watch it happen, I’m on the stage with him. I know my words and actions are shaping his little boy heart into a man’s. And so I pray.
God, give me wisdom to know when to show grace and when to stand firm. Help me remember that everything in his world is changing—and that can be so hard. Give me strength to allow him to make his own mistakes and guidance to help him make it right. Show me glimpses of the world through his eyes and help me offer advice that points him to You. Give me patience when he does things his way instead of mine. Show me when he needs me to simply listen and help me bite my tongue when my words are unnecessary.
God, my little boy smells like a man, and I pray he grows into one who honors You.