I read a lot of parenting blogs. And books and magazines. Plus, I follow a ton of writer-moms on social media who have teen and preteen children, just like me.
So I’m feeling a little betrayed by all of you. Why didn’t anyone warn me?
Yesterday, my goofy, curly-headed baby boy slid over to me while I was doing dishes. And my little buddy looked me straight in the eye. OK, now friends, I stand a full 5 foot, 8 inches. My youngest child is barely 12. And he stood there, gazing at me, nose to nose.
It might not sound like much, but it took my breath away.
Even though we’ve been together 24/7 for months now, it still came as a surprise.
So let me warn the others out there . . .
One day your baby will stand as tall as you are. And you won’t be ready for it. Won’t even see it coming. Nope. Not even a little.
Sure, you’ll notice their pants are looking a bit short. The sleeves of their hoodie will creep up their forearms. You might even jolt at the voice of a much older person coming out of your precious kiddo. And yes, there’s body odor and acne and the fun reminders of puberty. Not to mention shoes that need replacing at an unfathomable rate.
But nobody can really prepare you for the day your baby stands next to you, shoulder to shoulder, and you realize that in another heartbeat you’ll need to look up when you ask him to take out the garbage. And he’ll have to crouch down to give you a goodnight hug.
My 15-year-old passed me up ages ago. And when he suddenly smashed that unforeseen goalpost, it was kind of cute and quirky. The first time I experienced this, it was almost like a novelty, having this giant-sized child hanging around the house, calling me “Mama.”
But with the youngest, the baby of the family, it’s another story completely.
I still vividly remember how his big brother taught him how to crawl. How we cheered when he took his first steps. And, oh, how we celebrated when we no longer had to buy diapers. And that was followed by the sweetness of signing our final check for daycare.
But this milestone seems more significant. And a whole lot more abrupt.
When your child, your pre-teen, is suddenly bigger than you, there’s a subtle shift of power that nobody talks about. Even though I’m still the boss lady in charge, it’s a heck of a lot harder to scold someone who looks down on you.
I suppose it’s a good reminder that he’s growing into a man and needs his independence and all that. But it’s also a slap in the face that before I know it, he’ll be asking to borrow my keys and applying for colleges, and man, oh, man, my mama heart isn’t close to ready for that.
So I will sigh dramatically and sling my arm around his thin shoulders, while he’ll still let me. I’ll ruffle his curls and force myself to remember this day when I can still look straight into his smiling eyes.
And I will try, with a lump in my throat, to make peace with what’s coming.
At the same time, my sweet boy laughed at me for acting so surprised and making such a fuss.
“Mom, I’ve been right here, this whole time!” he said, squeezing my shoulder with reassurance that he’s still the same guy he was yesterday.
But I swear, just yesterday he was a head shorter than me. And just before that, I could hoist him up on my hip and solve his biggest problems with a cuddle and some gummy bears.
For as long as I can remember, my boys have jokingly called me “Big Mama.” But today, they commented on the sudden shift, too.
And no one prepares you for the day you become “Little Mama.”