Dear Son: Even Though You’re Still Here, I Miss You

You turn Sweet Sixteen this week.

In the wee hours of morning, actually, because sixteen years ago, you came into the world when it was still dark.

An early riser you remained, until the teen years crept in unexpectedly and you began to favor middle-of-afternoon to morning.

It was unexpected, you growing up so fast. Seems only yesterday you were a tiny baby in my arms.

Experienced moms tell new moms this very thing:

Enjoy every second because it flies by faster than you think.

The days are long but the years are short.

In the blink of an eye, they’ll be grown and gone.

What they don’t tell us is how it feels to watch you grow apart from us, too.

To know there is limited time left, shortened not only by your need to start college or a career, begin a family if you so choose, build your own life, but also by your need to separate emotionally from your mother so you can eventually do all of the above in the proper way.

While I know in my mind this is right and necessary, sweet son, I have to be honest:

My heart misses you sometimes.

You couldn’t go to sleep unless I rocked you, and your father and I were never good about following the doctor’s orders to place you in your bed and let you cry yourself to sleep.

In my still-childish young twenties, I felt it barbaric. (As a thirty-year-old mother to your youngest sister, not so much.)

Back then? With my first born? Just how could I resist your sweet smell? Your blue eyes staring at me in need?

How could I not scoop your tiny body into my arms and snuggle you to sleep? Soak in every second?

Wasn’t this what they told me to do?

But sister came not two years after you (along with her colic), and your need for more of my attention tested my tired patience.

As you grew, the daily struggle of life crowded out our time together.

Mom-mom, watch this.

Mom-mom, listen to the funny thing Steve said to Blue.

Mom-mom, did you know Snoopy can fly? That crazy puppy…

Hold on, Bubba! I’d often scold. Mama doesn’t have time right now.

Or, Show me real quick; I have ten thousand things to do.

I’m so busy; can you see how busy Mama is?

Oh my precious gift, to go back and reclaim the days I was too busy, too tired or too frustrated or worried to stop and listen to your little heart speak.

I am so very sorry.

There isn’t a but attached to that apology. No excuses.

A mother’s greatest hope is to be the safest place her child can fall.

And many a mother fears the day it will be too late to provide this, too late to heal her child’s scars, especially ones she may have caused:

The day her child pulls out of the driveway and leaves the nest for good.

Three years and hopefully some college. That’s really all your mother has left with you.

The only time left for me to teach you so many truths about being an adult.

How hard it really is.

How you’ll often wonder if you’re doing it right, this adulting thing.

How what you think is supposed to happen, sometimes doesn’t.

The irony about the short time we have together is that every day we grow further apart.

I know less and less of your comings and goings.

You are hanging out with friends at unfamiliar houses and places, doing things I can’t see and often won’t hear about. I can only pray I’ve taught you to make good decisions.

I know even less of your thoughts and feelings. You don’t talk to me as much as you used to. I can only pray you are telling the God who made you all the concerns swimming around your teenage mind.

You will leave me. It’s what you’re supposed to do.

I’ve accepted that. I’ve even started to look forward to it, excited to see the journey that lies ahead for you, confident your shining star will lead you down the right path, and that even if you turn the wrong way, its brightness will guide you back.

One day, you will hopefully cleave to a woman who loves you like I do. And if I’ve raised you right, you will cherish her far more than you cherish anything or anyone else in this world.

As I slowly climb down from the pedestal I’ve stood on all these years, relinquishing the title I’ve held of Number One, allowing other people and things to take up space in your heart, I am clinging to so many memories on my way down.

Can I work the camera too, Mom-mom? 

Mama, I got a role in the high school play!

Look, Mom-mom, I can write my name!

Mama, I FINALLY finished this three-page report.

Mom-mom, will you hold me?

Mama…will you just let me go?

Yes, baby boy, I will let you go. That’s what I was sent here to do. Roots and wings, a mama’s job.

I am so incredibly proud of who you are, and I feel privileged to watch your heart grow and change. To see it fill to the brim with new loves, new dreams, a new life.

You may have come into this world in darkness, but you brought a light that filled this mama’s heart and showed me exactly why I am alive today.

And it may be true that I have only a small time left to teach you all the things you need to know about being an adult.

But I will never run out of time to love you, my precious gift, however imperfect that love may be.

the joy of my heart

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