The true measure of a mother’s love is her willingness to wake up before the sun on vacation. On a recent trip to the shore, my youngest son begged to walk the beach at dawn to look for shells. So, I set my alarm, tumbled out of a warm, king-sized bed with extra squishy pillows, glared at my dead-to-the-world husband, and gently woke my 11-year-old. Without so much as a drop of coffee, we headed out into the morning, the sun still below the ocean horizon. With each step, I shed my zombie-like state and took in the quiet, salt-kissed air.
We walked together, looking at the bits of coral and small Portuguese Man o’War jellyfish washed up on the sand. We didn’t find any large shells, but instead of being disappointed, my son and I enjoyed the quiet time together and watched the most beautiful sunrise. As we walked back toward our hotel, my son walked ahead of me, and I marveled at how I could no longer tell the difference between his footsteps and mine. He pulled farther ahead, and I began to think about how the childhood experience mirrors a day at the beach.
The sun rises too fast. The day is long, filled with the multitudes of mundane tasks—chores and doctor appointments, school, and arguments. If you’re lucky, it’s sprinkled with the joys of family trips and extracurricular activities, filled with birthdays and celebrations of achievement. Without warning, the sun begins to set. If you blink it’s gone. I can no more stop him from growing up than I can stop the sun on its journey across the sky.
We are in the in-between. Some days he holds my hand. Some days he wants time alone. Part kid, part teen. He still has his stuffies yet has his own phone. He can make his own dinner yet needs to be reminded to shower. Waves of independence come and go, beating against the shore. It wears on my heart, stealing little bits away so slowly I don’t even notice the change until one day he’s receded far from my reach.
He brings light to my day. He is my sunshine. And as sure as that sun rises, it will soon rest low on the horizon, off to begin another day far from here, far from me.
His footprints are now the same size as mine. With each day, he’s pulling farther away. I can feel it, even if he doesn’t. If I hold on too tight, the magic moments will slip between my fingers. Trying to hold on to his childhood is like trying to hold on to the cool ocean waters.
So I’ll take photos and videos and replay the highlights in my mind. I’ll soak up the warmth of his glow for as long as I have it. I’ll be grateful for the days we have.
I’ll wake up early to steal a few extra hours from the day when I can. I’ll collect little mementos, tuck them in my pocket, and pull them out to relive the best moments together.
And when it’s time to leave and move on, I’ll take one last deep breath, give thanks for the time we had, and go forward knowing we had the very best time together.