Ok, so there should probably be a photo with this post. But, the boy has a social life: so he’s not around today to snap a photo. Maybe later this week?
Geo came home from Christmas shopping last night, “Oh, mom, you put my birthday tree up!” And then he got kinda quiet and said, “I’m sad to be turning 17.”
When you push him on that he’ll tell you — with these heartbreaking tears welling up in his eyes — that he feels his childhood slipping away.
“Oh, don’t cry!” I’m a sympathetic crier and I can feel the waterworks brewing up on their own. Lately, tears are always so close to the surface. But his face scrunches up in that unmistakable twist and we’re both wiping our eyes. It’s misery, this growing up stuff.
He’s worried his relationship with his parents will change. We assure him that it will, for the better. There will be friends and women and a family of his own. Grandbabies, even! In time, his father interjects!
“You’ll get a second chance at childhood, we promise! It’s better the second time.”
“When you have children. And then another chance with grandchildren!– Besides,” we tell him, “we’ll happily boss you about for as long as you’ll let us!”
Right now his response is always, “forever.”
That’s a fib he’s telling himself that I’m not correcting at the moment, but I know better. Because he’s never liked anyone bossing him about. Though, he’s romanticized this concept of childhood. For a child who has done nothing but dream of going to college, of being his own man, spending years telling me, “when I’m an adult”. . . well, he has a huge case of cold feet at the moment.
I’m not sure what it is, if this is the result of being an only child? It’s true, he doesn’t have any pesky younger siblings behind him to gently annoy him into leaving the house. He’s in no rush to drive, no rush to move out, dragging his feet and telling me everything.
Or if he senses my own grief and nostalgia? This lovely, brainy boy who also feels too deeply and can read his mother from a mile away — is he reticent because he’s picking up on my heartache?
I’m trying, friends, to gently hold on to the joy and excitement and the loveliness that is 17. But when he makes that face and falls into my arms, he’s crying for both of us and I can’t help but cry a bit too.
It is going to change. It’s already changing. That’s how it’s supposed to be. All those sleepless nights of toddlerhood give way to sleepless nights of mothering a teenager. The worries are different, but just as poingnant. Will he ever talk or will he ever walk gives way to where will his feet take him? How far away from home will a new love carry him?
The gradual goodbye requires being present to the pain and living in the moment in spite of it. So, we are just a bit weepy this birthday. The whole lot of us. Remembering who he once was, dreaming about who he is becoming. Promising, that no matter what changes come, we will remain this knotted bonded family. And we are reminding him that, yes, we’ll continue to boss him about forever — just as long as he’ll stand for it. And, not minute more.