My oldest son was telling me about one of his final days of Kindergarten this week, emphatically describing the thrilling events of his field trip with hand gestures, excited tone, and a very loud voice.
“MOM! We saw a human skeleton! And we played at the giant playground! And we raced around a table and hit the buttons that lit up! And we ate lunch together! And we sang on the school bus and I sat with Liam!” And on it went for about ten full minutes.
At the end of his animated story telling, I looked at my growing child. I mean, really looked at him. Wow, has he really grown up in the past year. He has gone from a nervous, distracted, hyper little dude who could not read or write, to a 4 ft tall almost first grader who tells me about every detail of his day, takes the bus confidently like a pro, and cracks better jokes than I do (almost). I see the shell of the little kid he was melting away into an actual ‘big kid’. It is both wonderfully satisfying and insanely terrifying. All of you parents know this feeling, I’m sure.
He continued to tell me about the rest of his day, and about how he and his buddy have a new saying after every conversation now. They wrap up every chat with a big, cheesy thumbs up. This is accompanied by a vivacious, slightly silly “Good talk, good talk.” It made me giggle, and reminded me of how funny and unique this kid is. How is he going to be a first grader?! HOW?
I find myself trying to savor every little moment with him as I see him evolving into this big kid. Yet, I know I cannot make them last.
As I tucked him into bed tonight, he said “Mom, it’s okay I can fall asleep on my own tonight.” Normally I am so eager to get him and his brother off to sleep so I can get stuff done around the house or have some me time. Tonight, I felt a sad pull. I wanted to be his comforter, his mom.
“Are you sure, bud? I don’t mind snuggling for a few minutes if you want.”
“No, that’s okay. I’m a first grader in training now. Our teacher says we need to practice the big kid stuff sometimes.” Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
“Yeah, you do. Okay bud I will be just downstairs if you need anything.” Leaning over to tuck him in, I planted a kiss on his forehead and stared lovingly down at my giant baby. “Can you please stop growing dude? I just want you to stay this age forever.”
A sleepy grin, he declined. “Moooommmmm, noooooooo. I am supposed to grow up, it’s okay, it’s normal. Don’t worry, when I get married… me and my wife will still live with you”. Bahahahaha yeah right, let’s see what she has to say about that!
“I know, I know. Well, I love you no matter what kid, even if you grow up. Your future wife is always welcome in my home.”
“Love you too, Mom. You still have Ben, he’s little.” Not for long enough, kiddo. Long days, short years, “Cats in the Cradle”… all that jazz.
“I know bud. You guys are just the best darn things ever in this world.”
“I know Mom, you say that all the time.”
“Good, I want you to always know that. Alright, I’m going. You brushed your teeth? Went potty?”
“Yup. All by myself. I TOLD you I did that already.”
“Alright babe. Love you. See you in the morning.” Switching off his light, I turned and headed towards my not-so-important tasks.
I turned back eagerly, happily ready to resume my role of cuddle giver and protector of a “little kid” for just a few moments more. I needed my fix. “Yeah bud?”
“Can you keep my light on for tonight? I’m just a little scared to fall asleep by myself.”
“Sure. Do you want me to stay for a few minutes?” I switched the light on, hopeful.
“No, I’m okay.”
“Alright hon.” Dejected, I turned to leave again trying to hide my disappointment.
Once more, a little voice. “Mom?”
“I love you.”
“Love you too. Goodnight you.” I could barely squelch out my words. So proud of the emerging independence of my crazy mini-me, and so heart-breakingly beautiful was the evolution of this mother and young son relationship in that moment. No one prepares you for this part of parenting, the letting go. How could they? We all know that logically, kids grow up and become their own people. Knowing this and experiencing it are too completely different entities.
He still needs me, and will continue to need me, but in different ways. It is so difficult to let go of the good stuff, even when you know different good stuff is on the horizon. I gratefully let go of the crappy stuff… the potty training, ear infections, challenges. Yes, he is still young. He is only 6. But judging by how fast the first six years went, I am sure in about two minutes I will be saying he is only 12. He is only 18. He is only 25… Still shaking my head in wonder and disbelief at the boy, teenager, and man he has become.
I find the smallest of comforts knowing that he wants his light on tonight. It is a reminder that these growing pains are not just for me to share, but his to conquer as well. It is my job to help him through them, putting up the facade that I am strong and confident and always encouraging of these little accomplishments. He needs my strength, and I definitely need his reassurance.
Hugs to you Mommas and Dadas out there if you are experiencing the same. I’ll leave the light on for ya’ tonight.