I catch a glimpse of my son through the dusty blinds in our living room, iPhone wedged in his pocket, the late afternoon sun in his eyes. My son, lean, lanky, and all legs, is outside with a friend.
Foolishly, I refer to it as a play date, ruffling his independent feathers and causing a dramatic eye roll. He corrects me, firmly telling me it’s called hanging out now. He can’t see the lump in my throat or detect my discomfort as I adjust to this new terminology.
Wasn’t he just five the other day, drinking juice from boxes, munching rainbow goldfish, and listening to the high pitched strains of “The Backyardigans”? Now he favors the quick talk-rap tone of “21 Pilots”, walks down to the local deli by himself for chips, and guzzles six Deer Parks a day.
I remember when he was one. A round, tow-headed lump of love balanced on my ample hip in the grocery store. A woman, older by decades, dressed in a pale grey coat, stopped to touch his feet. Fleshy, plump, and irresistible, my son’s toes were often admired while I stood in line to buy puréed apricots and strained peas.
“It goes quite quick, dear,” she said.
I hated that, hated when people told me how fast time goes when there is a child in your life. As if there was something I could do to slow it down, something I could do to drag out the years so they wouldn’t slip by me in a blur of tantrums, spit ups, and nap times. I knew it would go quick, but still my mind could never fathom, never fully grasp that this baby would someday become a man.
Some days I wanted it to go quick. To be free from the demands of a needy infant, ornery toddler, insolent youth. Always needing something. A diaper change. A new plastic toy. A download for his iPod.
He’s not so needy anymore. I’m adjusting.
I peer at my man-child through the dusty blinds. The glint of early evening light hits the slope of his angular nose. Where is that basic button, the nose every toddler has? Now there are tilts and indentations where there used to be podgy flushed cheeks. His voice, once soft like a marshmallow, has become edged with roughness.
I remember when he learned to crawl. The knees of his celadon onesie stained with grass, the furrow between his blonde brows deep with determination. Go! Go! I said, and he was off, like a lightening bug out of a paper cup. He liked that taste of freedom. I could barely keep up.
As I watch through the dusty blinds, the autumn sun highlights the soft down of hairs sprouting above his triangle tipped lips. The girls are starting to take notice. I watch his gait as he swaggers down the hill toward the deli in loose jeans and Vans – cool, confident steps and a wry smile on his face.
My son likes this freedom. I’m adjusting.
I adjust when he wants to Snapchat with his peers instead of talk to his weary, frayed-around-the-edges mom. I adjust when he coolly asks me to borrow my tweezers so he can pluck his fuzzy unibrow. I adjust when I ask if he needs help with something, and he answers, “No.”
Because that is what mothers do. We love, and we guide, and we teach, and we show, and then we must pray and let go.
That letting part. That takes some adjusting.
This piece originally appeared in The Elephant Journal.