I have two sons. They are still climbing the hill out of childhood and into teenager-dom, but they aren’t quite there yet. But I know it’s coming. I feel it and the feeling alternates between trepidation and angst, and absolute joy and pride.
I see it most in my older son, Robbie. I take great satisfaction in writing that nickname because more and more often he corrects me when I call him “Robbie” in public. “It’s Robert,” he’ll say, with a twinge of irritation.
He is only ten, but I have noticed the baby fat is gone and he is heavier—not fat just thicker and less ethereal. He is becoming something more than my little boy. He has weight to him now. And the landscape of his face has changed; I can see planes and hollows that weren’t there just a few years ago.
All of these changes are just the outside echoing what’s happening inside. He’s questioning me now. I can see the blind faith in my judgment faltering. He has more independent thought, he likes his own things—his own music, his own foods.
He doesn’t like me to kiss him in front of his friends and he wants to walk through parking lots without holding my hand.
And it makes me ache.
But that baby is still in there. You catch glimpses every now and then. A twitch of his nose, a glance of uncertainty now and again. And the prize . . . the hug. When he is especially pleased with me; I’ve bought him something he likes, I’ve given him great news, I’ve tickled his funny bone —he’ll still give me that great big hug around my middle because even though he comes up to my chin he is STILL smaller than me. And when he’s frightened, I’m still his number one choice. He will seek me out and push himself up against me, pretending he’s not REALLY afraid. And sometimes (rarely) when the day is still dawning and we are the first ones up in the house, he will crawl up into my lap like a little baby and drape himself over me and let me breathe in the scent of the top of his head. And he still smells like outside - like dirt and soap and freshly mowed grass and chlorine from the pool and he’s my baby for just a few more moments before the sun rises higher and he’s off and running. And I know it won’t last forever because he’s on his way to something bigger and better than cuddling me.
I see it already; I see my boy in the shadows of high school kids laughing on Main street . . .
I see him in the eyes of the college boys checking out girls at the local pub; I see him in movements of a new dad holding his own baby child. I know this childhood is waning and as much as I long to hold onto it I know I am not raising a little boy—I am raising a man. Two men in fact. I know that one day they will have careers and lives and families of their own.
But if I do it right, I will still be important and I will get to be a part of those lives for the rest of mine.