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I observed my son today from a distance. I marveled at the subtle changes I saw: The squaring of his shoulders, the confidence of his stride, the ease of his smile. I wondered when it all happened and how I was here the whole time, but somehow missed it.

Wasn’t it yesterday I was reminding him to say thank you to whoever’s dad was giving him a ride home? Now he is the ride home his little brother calls first. He is the person his sister goes to when she is upset because he calms her, no longer the person responsible for getting her upset in the first place. He is also the person who realizes I am tired and asks if he can help do anything for me before he goes out. He is the person who pops in to check on his grandparents without ever being asked to.

I am in awe of this transformation, and one of life’s ironies does not escape me. The boy becomes the young man who you thoroughly enjoy being around at precisely the moment you must let him go.

RELATED: “Your Son Growing Up Will Feel Like the Slowest Breakup You’ve Ever Known” Aches in Every Mother’s Heart

However, it is also the moment you realize you didn’t miss it. He did not change overnight. Throughout the chaos of a childhood measured in knee scrapes, playtime, bath time, time outs, and constant chatter, he was becoming. Even in the teen years of awkward relationships, triumphs, and failures big and small, he was learning and growing . . . becoming.

It was not always pretty, but it was pretty incredible to witness, and now he is ready so I must be too.

We see this process over and over in nature. The caterpillar morphs into the butterfly, and we set it free, content to catch glimpses of its beauty as it flits in and out of our lives. That is what I was doing as I observed my son today, marveling at this beautiful creature who came from me but is not mine to keep.

He is ready, but his becoming is not complete. He still sometimes forgets to take the trash out or frantically searches for his wallet and keys 10 minutes before his shift at work starts.

Soon, he will fly from here but continue to learn, to grow, to become. I just won’t be there every day to bear witness.

RELATED: A Mother Transitions From Living For Her Kids, To Living With Them

I will continue to be in awe of him as I watch him navigate adulthood from a distance. I will reassure him when he needs it, but I will no longer be there to help him find his keys or fill up his water bottle as he rushes out the door.

I will step back as he figures out life’s complexities in his own way. It might be difficult at times to restrain from giving advice or simply to be a thousand miles away from him as he faces challenges life will undoubtedly present.

However, I will accept the strangeness of my new role with optimism and grace. I will become for him what he needs me to be now. After all, aren’t human beings always in different stages of becoming? Time marches steadily on, nudging us into new roles and versions of ourselves.

Today, I am a mother, observing my son from a short distance, a young man on the precipice. Today, I am content to enjoy the beauty of his transformation, anticipating the moment he will take flight.

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Nicole Mondano

I am a high school teacher from Old Bridge New Jersey and a mom of three teens. My oldest will be a freshman at the University of Central Florida in the fall. Writing has always been an outlet for processing big changes in my life.

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