Sometimes when I’m driving, I’ll glance over at the passengers seat and catch sight of a young man where my child should be sitting. The muddled emotions that run through my heart in those seconds can only be described as a sense of overwhelming pride and utter confusion. The words of every single person who has ever said “they grow up too fast” or “you’ll miss these days” or “don’t blink” run through my head like firecrackers: fast, furious, and loud. All I can do is duck (proverbially, of course, because I am driving…) and hope I don’t get hit with the weight of those words while I wait for the fuse to burn out.
Usually I don’t get hit. Usually the words pass, and I smile at what an articulate, brave, inquisitive human being this young man is becoming. Even when he’s mad at me because “I don’t understand middle school” or when he rolls his eyes as I tell him that his math teacher does, in fact, know what she’s doing. I think about how much I enjoy watching this child of mine grow up, and how this new parenting phase is an adventure.
But sometimes those words I’m trying to avoid will hit with the sting of a stray spark that catches bare skin, and it takes my breath away. Children DO grow up too fast (arguably now more than ever), and it’s one of the most tremendous and tragic realizations as a parent when you get slapped with the reality that the time has gone. As quickly as everyone said it would, too. You blinked, it’s gone.
You’re never getting that time back.
In those stinging seconds, I’ll wonder how this baby of mine, the one I’m still not fully sure that I know how to care for, turned into such an independent human being who day by day needs me less and less (and if I’m being honest, feels like day by day he likes me less and less. Par for the teenage course, I suppose.) I’ll wonder how this child I gave life to could suddenly be closer to leaving home than he is to the day a stranger said “congratulations, Mom, it’s a boy” as she put him in my arms for the first time.
I’ll wonder if I’ve done enough. If I’ve taught him enough. If I’ve been even a fraction of the mother that he deserves. I’ll wonder if it’s too late to instill all of the wonderful and amazing things I love about this life into his heart, which is already slowly hardening to the realities of our world. Not that I can blame him. I’ll wonder if he is truly happy, or if these teenage hormones are just taking their temporary hold. I’ll wonder if he knows how deeply he is loved.
I’ll fear with every ounce of my being that it’s too late.
For what? I’m not exactly sure. But during those sleepless nights and endless diaper changes and exhausting temper tantrums of the past, it felt like we had unlimited time to get to the “important stuff”. Back then, we just had to survive, and that alone felt like it took monumental effort.
But I blinked, and here we are, at the crossroads of important stuff. We survived, thrived, even. But the clock is ticking, and I’m suddenly so incredibly aware of it. As the maternal instinct kicks into overdrive with the panicked need to ensure he knows how to be a kind, happy, self sufficient, contributing member of society, his teenage instinct is kicking in to slowly push away.
And the worst part of all is knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to delay the inevitable. Time waits for no one.
I once read a post on Facebook about “lasts” and how the worst part about them is that you have no idea when they are coming. One night you’ll sing the “good night” song for the last time, before he doesn’t ask for it again. One day you’ll give your kid a bath for the last time, before he can do it by himself. You’ll watch the Thomas the Tank Engine DVD for the last time. He’ll ask for a piggyback for the last time. These “lasts” will happen and then unknowingly and quietly slip away into the past. Then before you know it you’re looking at the chiseled face of a teenager who has lost his baby cheeks, sitting in the front seat of your car, and you’ll choke back tears when he tells you he definitely doesn’t remember “The Backyardigans” never mind creeping around the house with you sleuthing and singing the “Secret Agent” song.
Eventually though, the stinging subsides and the screams of “you’re running out of time” quiet. I’ll crack a ridiculous pun, and he’ll crack a smile. He’ll tell me something new he learned in Social Studies, and I’ll feel my heart start to relax.
Thirteen. We’ve still got time.
Happy thirteenth birthday to the one who made me a mom. Despite the uncertainty and the incessant feelings that I’ll never be enough of what you deserve, I’d do it over again a million times, just to share this life with you.
You. Are. So. Loved.
2 comments on “Thirteen.”
I have a daughter (my oldest) who is going to be 13 in May. Wow – you hit the nail on the head with this post – it’s like you peeked inside my head and wrote about what I’m feeling too. I think as a parent you do the best you can and it will never feel good enough. That just shows how much we care. I just try to take it one day at a time and ride out the current moodiness because I know in 5 minutes it will pass and she’ll be talking and smiling again. How do tweens/teens switch their emotions up so dang fast?! I swear I wasn’t this moody lol, but my mom might remember things differently. 😉
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