See this kid? The one with the long, silky blond hair and full cheeks? He’s 15 now. The hair is dark and cropped short. The cheeks are angular, with stubble much of the time, as he mostly ignores my reminders to shave. The smiling blue eyes are the same, though the smiles aren’t gifted to me quite as often as they were back then.
I used to piggyback this boy up the stairs to bed. He towers over me now. After years of listening to his high-pitched squeals during lightsaber duels, it often startles me when I hear the deep, booming voice that comes out of his mouth now.
He is my one son, sandwiched between two girls. I’ve learned some things, raising this boy.
Boys are loud. Boys are messy. Boys are smelly.
Boys are sensitive. Boys are thoughtful. Boys are protective, especially of their moms.
The most unexpected thing I’ve learned? Boys are so, so sweet.
I’m not gonna lie. 15 is tough. Tough to be, and tough to parent, especially in this day and age. When my kids became teenagers, I had to tell them things like, “Please don’t smoke, drink, take pills, have sex, or cyber-bully anyone.” When I became a teenager in the 80’s, my mom told me things like, “Please don’t bring your Cabbage Patch doll to the dinner table.” True story.
You know, when your kids are little, all you want is for them to leave you alone for five minutes. Then come the teenage years and suddenly, they leave you alone for too long.
The eyes are rolled, the doors are slammed, the walls are up.
And through those walls, sometimes it’s hard to see that sweet little boy.
The one who snuggled me the most.
The one who held my hand the longest.
I come downstairs one morning and on the kitchen counter is a piece of coffee cake. The very last piece. With a sticky note on top, that says, in terrible handwriting, “Save for Mom”.
He knows it’s my favorite.
There’s that sweet boy.
Another time, I overhear my 9 year old daughter being rude to him.
I interject: “Stop being mean to your brother!”
“It’s ok,” he says. Then, turning to his sister: “Even when you’re mean to me, you’re still my favorite person.”
And so, through the throes of teenage angst, I hold onto those glimpses. Of the sweet little boy he was, and of the good man he is becoming.
Not long ago, he randomly announced to my husband and I something I won’t soon forget. He said, “Do you realize that one day you’ll pick up your kid and it will be the last time that you do? But you won’t know it then.”
I’m glad I wasn’t aware of the last time I picked him up.
Because it would have broken me a little to put him down.
This boy of mine may not hold my hand any longer, but no matter how big he gets, he will always, always, hold my heart.