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They Grow Up

They grow up. My 11 year old starts 6th grade today – Middle School – a whole new building with just “big kids.” I’m biased, but I think he looked so handsome and grown up for his school picture in front of the house. Eye-rolling aside, he’s a pretty amazing kid. I’ve seen him mature so much in the past year – especially the last 6 months. He transitioned from virtual school to in-person school, finishing off his 5th grade year and entering Summer with an intense need for greater independence and opportunities to continue his social/emotional growth.

I have seen my son pushing back more than ever during this time of growth. I’ve seen him turn toward friends and away from his siblings…and it stings. I’ve seen his eyes roll farther back in his head than I thought humanly possible (He didn’t appreciate my joke, asking, “OH MY GOSH! Are you ok?! Your eyes almost completely disappeared with that one!”). He needs more space than he ever did before – but yet he also craves our interest in his life. He doesn’t want to tell us anything – but he’ll get bent if we don’t ask. He is NOT looking forward to school, but he wants to practice his locker combination and memorize his schedule. He doesn’t want his siblings in his room, but will suddenly spark up a dance party with lights and music and invite them both in. (They need to be ready to be kicked out on a moment’s notice, though!!) He doesn’t want chores, but understands that every time he empties the dishwasher without being asked, he’s praised and rewarded with more freedoms and “perks.” He wants to ride around town with his friends, but still wants to be tucked in at night. This is a special – and I suspect – brief time in our lives with him. Soon, these teetering/tottering, back-and-forth moments will tip to one side more often. I FEEL the pressure to do or say the right thing at all times to make sure he can trust us enough to keep us alongside for his journey. I have made many missteps…as has he, let’s be honest! But I always remind him, “Hey – I’ve never had an 11 year old son before, let’s do this together, OK?”

A friend of mine recently asked mothers in her circle to share their birth stories. I eagerly accepted the invitation to delve back into those days (my labor took forever, so it was DAYS) and relive the sights, sounds and emotions that began my metamorphosis into motherhood. The vision of his smooshy face being carried over to me for the first time marks the moment I would begin the process of fully submitting to my role as a mother. It feels like a lifetime ago…it feels impossible that my smooshy-faced baby is walking the halls of Middle School while I write this.

The cliched phrase of, “IT GOES SO FAST…ENJOY EVERY MINUTE” is one of my least favorite descriptions of parenthood. I honestly do not think it goes fast. I think the days are so long…SO long…and while the years can seem to fly by, I actually enjoy watching my children grow and thrive. With each new phase, I’m excited to hang with an 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old…

No, I did not enjoy every minute of the past 11 years – and I continue to not enjoy EVERY minute. That’s just plain unrealistic. How can you possibly enjoy the minutes when your child is in a tantrum and biting your shoulder? How can you enjoy sleep deprivation and bleeding, sore nipples? How can you enjoy being hurt by words your child didn’t understand are hurtful, and hiding in your room to take deep breaths and wipe away the tears and find a way to fix what just happened? How can we possibly enjoy every minute when we are fraught with worry about what they’re doing at school, at camp, or out riding their bikes?

No, the thing that I have learned over the past 11 year is to simply LIVE WHERE YOU ARE.

If the moment is rough, I live in that moment. I have learned you cannot rush through the bad moments – I live in them, deal with them, and move through them to the next moments. When the moment is beautiful, I especially try to saturate myself in the joy and ease of the laughter, or the quiet peace, or the excitement. Those moments make happy memories. The rough moments make hard memories. Every moment comes and goes whether we “enjoy them” or not and that’s the life we build.

So…where does that leave me today, as I feel the tug in my heart, the choke in my throat, imagining my little baby navigating a whole new world all by himself?

I guess I just need to remind myself that, they grow up.

And that’s part of it. I’m in a growing moment…and I can’t say I’m either enjoying this one or not enjoying it…I’m IN it…pushing through it, slowly as I watch the clock and wonder what he’s up to without me.

They grow up.

They clean up their messes and tie their own shoes.

They can arrange their own playdates with friends that they choose.

They can reach their own snacks and throw the wrappers away.

They entertain themselves without asking you to play.

They can help with the chores and take the dog for a walk.

They can read books for hours – you won’t hear them talk.

They’ll roll their eyes and sigh extra loud

but then do something great that makes you feel proud.

They can leave for a while and come back when you say,

flushed in the cheeks from an adventurous day.

They grow up, and I think at just the right pace

from a chubby cheeked boy to a grown, mature face.

And they need us to be there – and we need them too,

as our relationship grows into something new.

A lifetime of memories behind us, that’s true…

But a lifetime of moments ahead to live through.

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