Today my handsome son stepped out of my car and walked for the first time through the big double doors of middle school. "Momma," he said last night as his anxiety kept sleep at bay, "I don't want to go in the morning. Don't make me go".
"Ok Sweetheart," I said. "You don't have to go. You can stay home with me." As I whispered the words to him in the dark, I wanted them to be true. I think even more than he did. "I won't make you go if you don't want."
"You know I have to go, Mom. If I don't go, I'll be sorry," said the boy who has the power to see right through me. "I like school, so I'll be ok. Don't worry."
What a contradiction he is, my growing boy. He wants to stay home with me and away from whatever it is middle school might bring, and at the same time something inside him he doesn't even realize is at work tells him he has to go. The very same thing that has been at work in growing boys on the road to manhood since the beginning of time. The unexplainable and driving force to go... to push away... to leave their mothers.
"But Momma," he said softly as I ran my fingers through his hair, "I have bumps on my face now and I'm gonna be embarrassed."
For the first time, the combination of testosterone and his father's genes is beginning to show on his beautiful face. Little specks of red along his hair line and around his nose have him feeling self conscious and different. No amount of explaining by his Mother about the commonality that is puberty has worked. He's convinced he is the only boy that will arrive in the morning with a bump on his face.
I search for words that are wise and calming and that will completely obliterate his adolescent fear, but I hear myself say, "You'll see. You won't be the only one". I'm sure Donna Reed would have handled it better.
I stayed curled up in bed with him, rubbing his head and listening to his breathing steady and slow until I knew he would sleep. How much longer will I have moments like these? How much longer until he thinks he's too big to tell his Momma what he's afraid of?
I hate time.
Only yesterday I was looking down at the top of his head as I spiked his hair with sticky hair glue and this morning, I had to remind him to bend down so I could actually see the top of his head. "How do I look, Mom?" he asked.
"You are the most handsome eleven-year-old boy I've ever seen," I said, turning my head so he couldn't see the puddles forming in my eyes. I want him to see what I see when I look at him, a work of art.... a gift I never deserved... a treasure I am sure the world does not deserve.
My daughter, so strong and self determined, will turn twenty-one in a few short days. Not because of me, but in spite of me, she is a spectacular beauty and as brave a woman as I have ever known. There is still room in her life for me. Every day, at least once and more often than not several times, she calls from her home three hours away. She wants my opinions, my help, my advice, my ear. She's not in this house, but she hasn't left me. Somehow I know that even when she has her own children, she'll never really leave me. My Kitten will always be my little girl and she'll always need her Mother.
Not so with my boy. He is on his way now and every step he takes toward becoming the man he is destined to be is one step further away from me he goes. "I'm not raising a boy," I say to him any time he gets in trouble, "I'm raising a man, a loving husband and a good father". Today the reality that I am working myself right out of a job has never been more clear.
I watched him walk toward the building as long as I could until someone pulled in behind me and I begrudgingly drove away. It's probably best though, as I think I might still be sitting there in my car, waiting for my boy. He'll be home in a few hours now and I'll hear all about his big day. He'll tell me what's new with old friends, he'll describe the new ones and he'll talk so loud and so fast, I'll barely be able to keep up. Then, he'll grab a plate full of food and head off to his room to watch TV and wind down and while I fight the urge to try and convince him how much happier he'd be if we home-schooled.
Life's funny. And then sometimes, it's not.
Copyright © 2004-2005, Sherri Bailey
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