Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

I started warning you about middle school a long time ago. Heights are awkward, bodies are changing, skin is uncooperative, voices are unpredictable, and fashion . . . well, fashion is pretty much nonexistent. I showed you pictures of my own middle school years, and oh, the laughs we shared. We laughed as I tried to prepare you for flirting, gossip, deodorant, and body hair. The time when you’d finally get to join band or athletics, switch classes, maybe even get a cell phone. We talked about the temptations, the changes, the dynamics.

We talked a lot about what awaited you from the outside, we talked a lot about the changes you’d experience on the outside, but I didn’t prepare you for what would happen on the inside.

I wasn’t prepared for what happens on the inside.

Middle school is the time when childhood bleeds into manhood, when you’re just enough and not enough of both to know just where you stand.

I’ve watched you grow taller, marveling and bragging at how big and handsome you are, yet I’m at a loss as to how to help you pilot this new body, how to make sense of the man inside you trying to push through the boy who remains.

RELATED: The Little Boy I’m Dancing With Today Will be a Great Man Tomorrow

I’ve rolled my eyes and raised my voice. I’ve punished and debated. We’ve snuggled and we’ve argued. I’ve pushed and I’ve stood back. I’ve allowed myself to take this storm of hormones personally, viewed this journey you’re on as a deliberate one.

I’ve been so lost in this sea of changing tides and moods I’ve forgotten you’re in it with me, that you’re in as much control of it as I am.

I’ve sat dumbfounded, offended, hurt, angry. I’ve sat proud, tired, accomplished, content. In it all, no matter which mood your body has decided to put you in, whether I was angered by your attitude or astonished at your absurdity, the one consistent thing I have felt has been that of helplessness.

I don’t know how to help you curb these hormones.

I don’t know how to make your changing body cooperate.

I don’t know why what worked yesterday won’t work today.

I have prepared you with the science of what is happening, can explain what is going on. We share the common understanding of what is changing, but between us also lies the hurt and confusion of two people who are fighting with futility to stay the same.

I’m not ready for you to be a man.

You’re not ready for you to be a man.

Your body whispers that you are a man, but your heart cries out that you’re still a boy.

RELATED: He’s Almost a Man But My Son Still Needs Me

The deodorant on the counter is for a man, but the toys on the table are for a boy.

The independence that bubbles up inside of you is that of a man, but the way you rest your head on my shoulder is with the innocence of a boy.

You’re a sapling, growing, hinting at what you will be, but not quite steady enough to cast a shade.

I don’t always know when to hold on and when to hold back. You don’t always know when to speak up and when to quiet down.

We’re both in new roles, you and I, neither of us always certain of what those roles are.

It’s tough. I feel as though I’m being replaced, resented. You feel as though you’re being stifled, stunted. Together we both want what’s best for you, both know you’ll reach that point someday. It’s your job to get there, and part of mine is repeatedly telling you “not yet!”. We have battling roles with a common outcometo see you reach manhood. They are seemingly incompatible yet also highly dependent upon one another.

So in this time of tumult, during this disorienting dance between man and boy, when I don’t know what to expect or how to always handle it all, I can only make you this promise:

I will still love you on the other side.

I love you now, in the middle, don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved you through cries and colic, through potty training and Minecraft obsessions. I loved you when your little feet were still chubby on top and I’ll love you when your little mouth gets fuzzy on top.

RELATED: There’s Just Something About Mamas and Their Boys

I’ve loved you through every time you took your diaper off during a nap, and I’ll love you through every time your mouth shoots off during an argument.

I’ll love you through this change, this time, this journey, this discovery. I’ll love you through the mood swings and the voice cracks, the wrestling for independence and the very real need for support. I’ll love you through this hard time, this weird time, this getting-to-know-you-again time, and I will love you on the other side.

I’ll love you through your embarrassment of me, your ridicule of me, your annoyance at me, and the inevitable running back to me. I’ll love you through your wee voice, your changing voice, and someday soon, your deep voice. I’ll say goodbye to the voice that called me “mama” and get to know the one that will call me “mom.” I’ll someday put my head on your chest when we hug and smell your cologne, not your shampoo.

I’ll mourn the future as though it changes our past, then I’ll remember our past and look forward to your future.

I’ve seen glimpses of who you’ll be, of the man peeking out. I’m getting to know his humor, his passions, his compass. He’s not quite steady, but he doesn’t have to be. Not yet. He’ll make it out, eventually, and I already know I’ll love him. Because he’s you, you’re him, and I know I’ll love you on the other side.

Previously published on the author’s blog

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.

Here on the Island of Autism Parenting

In: Motherhood
Son on dad's shoulders looking at sunset over water

Hey, you. Yes, you there: mom to a kid on the spectrum. Well, you and I know they’re so much more than that. But sometimes those few words seem so all-consuming. So defining. So defeating. I see you when you’re done. That was me earlier today. I had to send a picture of a broken windshield to my husband. I prefaced the picture with the text, “You’re going to be so mad.” And you know what? He saw the picture, read my text, and replied, “I love you. The windshield can be fixed. Don’t worry. Just come home.” I think,...

Keep Reading

Round 2 in the Passenger Seat is Even Harder

In: Motherhood, Teen
Teen boy behind the wheel, color photo

Here I am, once again, in the passenger seat. The driver’s side mirrors are adjusted a little higher. The seat is moved back to fit his growing teenage limbs. The rearview mirror is no longer tilted to see what’s going on in the backseat. Yellow stickers screaming “Student Driver,” are plastered to the sides of the car. The smile on his face is noticeable. The fear in mine is hard to hide. These are big moments for both of us. For him, it’s the beginning of freedom. Exiting the sidestreets of youth and accelerating full speed into the open road...

Keep Reading

We’re Walking the Road of Twin Loss Together

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother and son walk along beach holding hands

He climbed into our bed last week, holding the teddy bear that came home in his twin brother’s hospital grief box almost 10 years earlier. “Mom, I really miss my brother. And do you see that picture of me over there with you, me and his picture in your belly? It makes me really, really sad when I look at it.” A week later, he was having a bad day and said, “I wish I could trade places with my brother.” No, he’s not disturbed or mentally ill. He’s a happy-go-lucky little boy who is grieving the brother who grew...

Keep Reading

Somewhere Between Wife and Mom, There Is a Woman

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman standing alone in field smiling

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember there is a woman behind the mom. At home, you feel caught between two worlds. Mom world and wife world. Sometimes it’s hard to balance both. We don’t exactly feel sexy in our leggings and messy mom bun. We don’t feel sexy at the end of the day when we are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from being a mom all day. The truth is we want to feel like ourselves again. We just aren’t sure where we fit in anymore. RELATED: I Fear I’ve Lost Myself To Motherhood We know the kids only stay...

Keep Reading

Until I See You in Heaven, I’ll Cherish Precious Memories of You

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Toddler girl with bald head, color photo

Your memory floats through my mind so often that I’m often seeing two moments at once. I see the one that happened in the past, and I see the one I now live each day. These two often compete in my mind for importance. I can see you in the play of all young children. Listening to their fun, I hear your laughter clearly though others around me do not. A smile might cross my face at the funny thing you said once upon a time that is just a memory now prompted by someone else’s young child. The world...

Keep Reading

Friendship Looks Different Now That Our Kids Are Older

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two women and their teen daughters, color photo

When my kids were young and still in diapers, my friends and I used to meet up at Chick-fil-A for play dates. Our main goal was to maintain our sanity while our kids played in the play area. We’d discuss life, marriage, challenges, sleep deprivation, mom guilt, and potty-training woes. We frequently scheduled outings to prevent ourselves from going insane while staying at home. We’d take a stroll around the mall together, pushing our bulky strollers and carrying diaper bags. Our first stop was always the coffee shop where we’d order a latte (extra espresso shot) and set it in...

Keep Reading

Moms Take a Hard Look in the Mirror When Our Girls Become Tweens

In: Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mother and tween daughter reading

We all know about mean girls. They’re in the movies we go to see, the television shows we watch, and the books we read. These fictional divas are usually exaggerated versions of the real thing: troubled cheerleaders with a couple of sidekicks following in their faux-fabulous footsteps. The truth about mean girls is more complex. Sometimes, they aren’t kids you would expect to be mean at all: the quiet girls, sweet and innocent. Maybe she’s your kid. Maybe she’s mine. As our daughters approach their teen years, we can’t help but reflect on our own. The turmoil. The heartbreak. The...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Love is the Best Medicine

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child lying on couch under blankets, color photo

When my kids are sick, I watch them sleep and see every age they have ever been at once. The sleepless nights with a fussy toddler, the too-hot cheeks of a baby against my own skin, the clean-up duty with my husband at 3 a.m., every restless moment floods my thoughts. I can almost feel the rocking—so much rocking—and hear myself singing the same lullaby until my voice became nothing but a whisper. I can still smell the pink antibiotics in a tiny syringe. Although my babies are now six and nine years old, the minute that fever spikes, they...

Keep Reading

Here’s to the Saturday Mornings

In: Living, Motherhood
Baby in bouncer next to mama with coffee cup, color photo

Here’s to the Saturday mornings—the part of the week that kind of marks the seasons of our lives. I’ve had so many types of Saturdays, each just a glimpse of what life holds at the time. There were Saturdays spent sleeping in and putting off chores after a long week of school. And some Saturdays waking up on the floor in a friend’s living room after talking and prank calling all night. I’ve spent many Saturday mornings walking through superstitious pre-game routines on the way to the gym, eating just enough breakfast to fuel me for the game, but not...

Keep Reading

From a Veteran Special Needs Mom: Don’t Lose Hope

In: Living, Motherhood, Teen
Woman making heart symbol with hands

When my son was newly diagnosed with autism, I was reading everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. So much so that to this day, I can barely handle reading anything on the subject because I overdosed so badly on it. I went through a grieving process as all families do. Grieving my expectations, hopes, and dreams. It was during this time that all hell broke loose. My child, like a lot of other people who experience autism, has a lot of other psychological and medical issues that interact with his autism. The combination of all those things led to...

Keep Reading