Something I wrote a while ago and I want to remember it.
I’m in mourning. My unsuspecting child hit the point of no return on his timeline. The moment when a boy becomes a man. I do not refer to the rite of passage wherein he must kill his first bear or be tied to an anthill to prove his valor. He just turned 13.
And he will never be the same.
My biggest newborn was a hefty 9 pounds, 7 ounces, and a happier baby you will never meet nor a sweeter little boy. My son has always looked out for others, taken his turn, held my hand, tried to please. He followed my fashion advice. He excelled in school. My kind and gentle giant.
But not today.
My poor innocent was poisoned with testosterone overnight and in his place is the Dr. Jekyll of teens. It is suddenly asking too much to make eye contact, let alone enunciate, when he speaks. A conversation of grunts is the new norm. My tall handsome son has taken on a hunched shoulder and a slovenly hairdo. Burping and body odor are no longer unfortunate incidents but matters of personal pride.
Oh my lovely boy, where have you gone?
Bill Cosby once said that he and his wife had five children “because they did not want six”. I whole-heartedly agree. Five is a wonderful number if you can pull it off. Mine span ten years and I only hope that’s enough. The timing with our family plan was that when the younger children were entering the delusional entitled teen years, the older ones would be exiting them with a new-found sense of gratitude and maturity. This way, there would always be somebody in the house who still thought I might know something.
Our eldest son just came home from a year-long commitment on AmeriCorps. At the tender age of 21, he returned to much fanfare and chicken enchiladas.
Sometime the next day, he pulled me aside and confessed that during his wanderings he realized that his parents had actually “busted their butts” raising him and his siblings and he appreciated it. He met many, many kids out there with parents that they themselves were having to parent.
Home is a place for our kids to be kids but that may be a rarer thing than I assumed.
I remembered all the times I wanted to throw in the towel, give in to them, give up on them, or run away from them….but didn’t. You practice doing the ‘tough love’ thing until you can balance the ‘tough’ with the ‘love’.
And eventually, if you don’t die of a broken heart first, they grow up.
I spent some years praying hard and loving our eldest furiously. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty. I hoped his latest adventure would get his feet firmly planted and his head on straight. And now his head, while definitely set much straighter, sports a fresh mohawk celebrating his graduation from the self-imposed straight and narrow. He stands tall and is ready to move on to the next part of his story.
He is kinder, he is gentler, he is thoughtful.
We make eye contact.
So in one month, I have lost a son and found a son. There are places where the transfer is not yet complete; both need a haircut and who doesn’t love a good healthy belch?
I am going to miss my younger son terribly while he’s gone. I see days coming where I will have to go ninja on him to save him from himself or perhaps hold tightly to some line in the sand while he figures out up from down. But we are raising men and women of courage and values.
They will only know what that looks like by looking at us.
Of course, there is our youngest, yet untouched by teenager angst. God knew exactly what He was doing when He provided the last-born comic relief for our family. With all of the changes in our growing brood, his enthusiastic smiles and guileless dedication to childhood is refreshing. It reminds me that, like Peter Pan, that little sparkle of youth inside carries through, no matter what our age.
Growing up is a process of someone’s heart deciding who it wants to be and when.
There’s faith and hope and love during the wait.
And thankfully, plenty of laughter along the way.